Todd Harrison’s post in the Congress blog “A tale of two budgets” criticizes the Department of Defense for submitting a “confused” budget. Unfortunately, his writing confuses the reader by failing to make clear some fundamental points about how the Department of Defense plans for the future.

Congress appropriates one fiscal year at a time. The administration’s budget for FY 2015 fully supports the Department’s preferred force structure, to include a long-term goal of 11 aircraft carriers.

The Defense Department also submitted a Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), which covers the next five years.  The FYDP contains the Department’s current five-year plans for forces, end strengths, and modernization.  We have stated publicly that our goal is to retain 11 aircraft carriers, draw down the United States Army to 440,000-450,000 active troops and 530,000 Guard and Reserve, and reduce the Marines to 182,000 active personnel.

In our future years defense program, we made the decision to allow the services to plan at sequester levels for certain forces, even though our overall budget request exceeds sequester levels.   We made this decision because of the time required to plan effectively for significant changes in some end strengths and carrier levels.  We must begin that planning now to be ready to confront the reality of sequestration, which remains the law of the land for 2016 and beyond.

If Congress signals a willingness to budget at the levels the president requests for the years beyond FY 2015, we will ensure our next five-year plan sustains our preferred force levels for the Army and Marine Corps end strengths and for aircraft carriers.

The Department is doing its best to plan effectively in these difficult fiscal times.  We are looking to Congress to support the funding in the president’s budget this year and the years beyond FY 2015.  There is no confusion. We believe that is best for our national defense. 

Hale has served as undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) since 2009 and was assistant secretary of the Air Force (Fiunancial Management and Comptroller) in the Clinton administration.