A Congressional Budget Office analysis suggesting the Pentagon budget will be $123 billion higher than expected over the next five years dismisses many of the proposals the department has made to control costs, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters July 12.
The department has committed to reducing the budget by $487 billion over the next 10 years. The CBO report makes clear that if Congress blocks proposals to achieve cost savings in the 2013 budget – particularly efforts to address skyrocketing personnel costs – the Pentagon will risk violating the strict spending caps that Congress imposed on the department in the Budget Control Act, Little said.
CBO officials applied their own forecast to many of the DOD proposals, according to Little.
As an example, he said, CBO officials assumed Congress would deny the department’s request to raise TRICARE fees for certain retirees. The fee increase would mean an additional $13 billion in savings over the next five years.
The budget office also believes Congress will authorize higher military pay raises than DOD currently proposes, Little said.
CBO also assumes DOD will not meet the aggressive targets it has set to control growth in weapons acquisitions costs. The office assumes future acquisitions programs will perform as in the past. “Their analysis makes clear that we can’t let that happen, and that we instead have to improve the performance of our acquisitions programs,” Little said. “That’s precisely what we’re doing.”
All of the proposals DOD made “were designed to help us meet the spending caps of the Budget Control Act while preserving our ability to invest in maintaining a ready and well-equipped force that remains the strongest on the planet,” Little said.
The department has made the tough decisions and based those decisions on sound strategic grounds. “The CBO report underscores the point the secretary has been making: To responsibly square fiscal discipline with national security, you have to make tough decisions informed by a strategy, as we’ve done,” he said.
If Congress does not approve the DOD proposals – or changes other proposals — the department must look to other options for the savings required by the Budget Control Act. “That means cuts to training, weapons modernization and other programs that are essential to avoiding a hollow force,” he said.
Little welcomed the CBO report and the discussion it has provoked. “CBO’s report makes it clear why we need to continue to press ahead on all fronts with our efforts to achieve cost savings,” he said. “And we need the close partnership of Congress to do so.”