Sunday, April 20, 2014

Defense Budget Cuts

            Defense spending around the world is rising, with the exception of the United States and other western countries. Total military expenditure, excluding the U.S., increased by 1.8% worldwide. In the U.S., on the other hand, military spending in 2013 fell 7.8% to about $640 billion, while spending in nations such as China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia increased.

This decrease in military spending by the United States is a result of the end of the war in Iraq, the slow withdrawal from Afghanistan, and budget cuts passed down through Congress. However, while Congress has continued to cut spending, the U.S. Defense Department has stated that it will continue to send budget proposals that reflect the requirements necessary to defend the country, not ones that obey the federal spending caps.

The DoD points to the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal, which would result in exceeding the cap by $115 billion between 2016 and 2019, as evidence of the White House’s reluctance to stick to spending caps when it comes to national security.

However, there have been significant cuts made to military expenditures in the proposed Fiscal 2015 Budget Proposal. President Obama sent Congress this proposal, which suggest a defense budget of $495.6 billion in “discretionary budget authority to fund base defense programs in fiscal year 2015”. This budget is $0.4 billion less than 2014 expenses.

The DoD continues to request more money with the end goal of striking a balance between “readiness, capacity, and capability” with smaller, more highly qualified and trained forces. The plans also include selective base closures and realignments, and slower growth in military compensation. The objective is to ensure that no matter their size, America’s Armed Forces are properly trained, equipped, compensated, and prepared to accomplish their mission. “

In response to the DoD’s FY 2015 budget request, Defense Secretary Hagel cautioned against the risks inherent in smaller budgets. With a smaller force, defense of the nation might be more difficult, and responding to multiple conflicts could be virtually impossible.

Two-thirds of the requested FY 2015 budget, approximately $336.3 billion, will go towards the DoD’s everyday operations, payroll, and benefits, as well as the training, logistics, family housing, and other costs associated with maintaining personnel. The remainder of the budget, approximately $159.3 billion, will be used to invest in future defense technologies and needs, including “modernization and recapitalization of equipment and facilities”. This money is divided between the military departments and the Defense-wide account.

The FY 2015 would also affect each branch differently, in size and capabilities.

The Air Force would trade off the A-10 Warthog and the 50 year old U-2 in exchange for the funding to support 59 combat-coded air squadrons (Active, Reserve, and Guard). The budget emphasizes modernization, including the funding for 26 Joint Strike Fighters, seven KC-46 Tankers, and the investment of $1 billion over five years for the development of a “next-generation jet engine”.

To balance spending, the Air Force would see a decrease in force size. Next year’s number of airmen is expected to be around 310,900, which is 11,000 less than this year’s. The budget will see a 10% decrease in combat squadrons as well.

The Navy plans to support a fleet of 283 ships, 5 less than FY 2014, and to protect “investments in attack submarines, guided missile destroyers, and afloat staging bases to confront emerging threats”. The FY 2015 budget request includes funding for two Virginia-class attack submarines, two DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers before 2019, 3 Littoral Combat Ships, 14 LCS, and 8 Joint Strike Fighters (2 for the Navy and 6 for the Marine Corps). In exchange, the Navy would place 11 cruisers in a long-term modernization program, and reconsider its Littoral Combat Ship program. The Navy’s manpower will only decrease by a few hundred, to approximately 323,600 sailors. 

The Marine Corps is requesting the funding to support 182,700 Marines, including 900 stationed at overseas American embassies for increased protection of U.S. officials. This is a decrease of about 5,000 Marines from FY 2014. The total number of infantry battalions will also drop from 25 to 23. Funding will also be affected by the Asia pivot, and will be channeled towards increasing U.S. presence in that region.

The Army’s FY 2015 budget includes requests for the funding of 32 Active brigade combat teams as well as 28 Army National Guard brigade combat teams. This will eliminate six of today’s brigades, as well as two of the thirteen combat aviation brigades. In terms of equipment, the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle program has been eliminated, and changes are being put in place for the helicopter force. 

Meanwhile, Army will decrease its force size at an accelerated pace, with the end goal of having between 440,000 and 450,000 Active Duty soldiers. The National Guard and Reserves will reduce to 335,000 Guardsmen, and 195,000 Reservists. This will shrink the Army down to the smallest it has been since before World War II.

The changes that would be made by the proposed FY 2015 defense-spending budget would be substantial. With the decrease in size and manpower, the national security of the country could be called into question. The most important element in the discussion is to strike the balance between efficiency and safety.

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