House Defense bill would cost $703B, says budget scorekeeper

A 2012 Defense authorization bill the House will consider this week would require more than $700 billion in federal spending through 2016 at a time when both political parties are looking high and low for cuts. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released that estimate early Tuesday in a study of a House Armed Services Committee-approved measure that would authorize $690 billion in defense spending.

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CBO found the measure, if enacted as it was reported out of committee, would require $679 billion between 2012 and 2016. 

The budget analysts also found “a select number of those authorizations and estimate they would raise costs by about $24 billion over the 2013-2016 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts.”

CBO categorized those costs in a separate category “because funding for these activities would be covered by specific authorizations in future years.”

The proposed authorization of $690 billion would be $15 billion less than the $705 billion appropriated for this fiscal year, according to CBO. 

The defense bill, which the full House could take up as soon as Tuesday afternoon, sets $553 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget. That would represent a $24 billion, or 5 percent, bump from the 2011 level, CBO found.

Senior lawmakers and defense insiders doubt any other 2012 defense authorization or appropriations bill will match that level. The White House and congressional leaders agreed to cut $18 billion from the original defense budget request during negotiations on a 2011 spending bill. 

What’s more, the White House last November ordered the Pentagon to cut $78 billion over five years. Five months later, President Obama announced a goal to cut national security spending by $400 billion over 12 years.

The House Armed Services bill proposes increasing Pentagon procurement by $12 billion, or 11 percent, from 2011 levels, the budget analysts concluded. Under the bill, operations and maintenance accounts would collectively swell by $9 billion, or 5 percent, while R&D spending will go up by $1 billion, or 1 percent. Military personnel accounts would grow by $4 billion, or 3 percent.

The categories of DOD funding that would receive increases are procurement at $12 billion (11 percent), operation and maintenance at $9 billion (5 percent), military personnel at $4 billion (3 percent), and research and development at $1 billion (1 percent).

The House bill would clear the Pentagon to spend $119 billion in 2012 for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. That amount would be about $40 billion, or 25 percent, lower than the $159 billion enacted for this year, CBO found.

“That authorized level would be consistent with the [Obama] administration’s budget request, which assumes a draw down of all U.S. troops in Iraq by December 31, 2011, and a reduction of force levels in Afghanistan,” the CBO report states.

Notably, the House measure would allow the Defense Department to eliminate nearly 10,000 active duty uniformed positions across the four military services. CBO estimates that would lead to $5.8 billion in savings from 2012 to 2016.

“Those decreases reflect reductions in pay and benefits from fewer personnel, as well as reductions in costs for operation and maintenance,” states the report.

The authorization measure also proposes a 1.6 percent pay hike for military personnel, which the budget analysts concluded would come with a $1.2 billion price tag in 2012.