Administration mulling $46.8B cut to planned Pentagon spending

The Obama administration is planning $524 billion in Pentagon spending for 2013, a nearly $50 billion cut from planned military spending.

A summary of an Office of Management and Budget document obtained by The Hill details how much the administration intends to devote to the Pentagon’s base and war budgets over five years.

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The Pentagon’s 2012 budget plan contained a five-year spending blueprint that proposed a $570.7 billion base military budget for 2013. The $46.8 billion reduction revealed in the OMB document, known as the “pass-back memo” in Defense circles, is needed to fit under spending caps included in the Budget Control Act.

Though a cut from planned spending, a $524 billion base budget could well be an increase over what eventually will be enacted by Congress for this fiscal year.

Senate appropriators have proposed a $513 billion 2012 military spending bill; the House already has approved a $530 billion Defense appropriations bill. The White House in late October endorsed the Senate’s proposed funding level.

Lawmakers largely have kept intact — save some marginal changes — the Bush and Obama administrations’ post-9/11 war-funding plans.

The administration will have all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this month, and it has enacted a steady withdrawal from Afghanistan that would end in 2014.

A source who has reviewed the OMB budget documents told The Hill that the plan assumes “an average [U.S.] troop level of 68,000 for Afghanistan in 2013.”

The summary of the OMB pass-back memo reveals the administration expects to seek $82.5 billion in war funding for 2013. That $35 billion reduction from its $117 billion 2012 war-funding request reflects those drawdown plans, and continues a trend.

From 2011 to 2012, the overseas contingency measure shrank from $159 billion to $117 billion.

The summary contains the same $50 billion yearly placeholders for the cost of the Afghanistan conflict and other wars through 2017. The Obama administration ushered in that practice, which has been criticized by GOP lawmakers and national security budget experts.

The summary of the OMB plan reveals the administration’s intention to request $586.3 billion in base Pentagon spending for 2014, and steady — but modest — growth beyond that.

OMB foresees a $598 billion base DOD budget in 2015, followed by $610.5 billion and $621.5 billion in 2016 and 2017, respectively, according to the summary.

Notably, the OMB pass-back memo directs the Pentagon to begin funding for all “enduring activities” now funded through the war-funding measures within the base budget, beginning with its 2014 spending plan.

But Mackenzie Eaglen, a former Senate staffer now with the Heritage Foundation, said this is where the numbers get murky.

That’s because the Budget Control Act caps 2014 national security spending at $668 billion, meaning a $586.3 billion Pentagon budget would mean that pot of federal money would exceed that limit, Eaglen said.