By Tony Capaccio
By Tony Capaccio
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s proposed $495.6 billion budget for the coming fiscal year would provide $154 billion for weapons purchases and research, $25 billion less than projected a year ago, according to the Defense Department.
The reduction is part of the $45 billion in savings that defense officials had to find to meet budget caps lawmakers agreed to in December. The budget would take steps to slow the growth in military pay and benefits, retire aging aircraft and maintain a military presence in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
“This funding level will allow the military to protect U.S. interests and fulfill the updated defense strategy - but with somewhat increased levels of risk,” according to President Barack Obama’s proposed budget released today. The request, when adjusted for inflation, equals the Pentagon’s 2007 proposal, not including war operations.
If across-the-board cuts known as sequestration resume in 2016, “risks would grow significantly,” the administration’s budget says.
The weapons spending amounts released today reflect Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s pledge last week to shrink the Army and retire older planes in favor of newer systems such as Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet and Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Global Hawk surveillance drones.
“This is a budget that recognizes the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, the dangerous world we live in, and the American military’s unique and indispensable role in this country and in today’s volatile world,” Hagel said today in a statement.
The Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, an assessment carried out by the Defense Department once every four years and released today, said the budget crunch could hurt the military’s ability to engage in two simultaneous conflicts, compared with strategic guidance in 2012 that called for such capabilities.
“Budget reductions inevitably reduce the military’s margin of error in dealing with risks, and a smaller force strains our ability to simultaneously respond to more than one major contingency at a time,” the review released today said. “The department can manage these risks” under the current budget “but the risks would grow significantly if sequester-level cuts return” in 2016.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a statement today rejecting the review, saying the strategy was “budget-driven” and fails to outline the military’s needs for the next 20 years as required by law. He said he would require the Pentagon to submit a revised report.