House GOP budget boosts defense spending

The House Republican budget released Tuesday boosts defense spending $483 billion above sequester levels over the next decade, though it does adhere to the 2015 caps reached in the December budget deal.

The budget released by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday would bust the sequestration spending caps for defense in 2016 and fully return the Pentagon's budget to pre-sequester levels starting in 2017. [READ RYAN'S BUDGET PROPOSAL.]

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The additional funding could allow the military to halt plans for cutting the Army to 450,000 troops and help maintain the Navy’s 11 aircraft carrier fleet.

The defense spending increases are offset by cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, however, which is a non-starter with Democrats.

Like the Obama administration’s budget proposal, the Ryan budget does not keep defense spending under the sequestration caps after 2015.

The Pentagon’s proposed 2015 budget includes an additional $115 billion over then next five years — as well as a $26 billion “wish list” this year. The House GOP budget boosts defense spending by $205 billion above the sequester caps  through 2019.

The future-years funding is key because the Pentagon is putting off until major decisions like whether to retire the USS George Washington carrier early until 2016, which it says will depends on whether Congress can reverse the sequester spending caps.

The Pentagon’s budget request, however, did not include the funding for the carrier’s refueling within the additional $115 billion requested above the sequester caps.

The Ryan budget proposal released Monday does not include specifics like refueling the carrier, which is needed to keep the carrier in the fleet. But it makes clear that the funding would be therewith the higher defense spending levels.

“This budget contemplates funding in excess of the president’s request, which could be used, in part, to maintain the 11 carrier strike groups called for under longstanding defense plans,” the budget plan states.

The House GOP budget does not include any savings from cuts to compensation and benefits for personnel.

Ryan was criticized for including a reduction to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for working-age military retirees in the December budget deal he co-authored with Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Earlier this year Congress, reversed the cut for all service members who enlisted before Jan. 1, 2014.

The House budget plan says that Congress should give “serious consideration” to the military commission that’s due to give recommendations on compensation reforms early next year.

“Given the explosive growth in compensation costs, the possibilities for reform must be examined,” the budget states. “Nonetheless, this budget does not assume any savings from accounts providing for the compensation [including health care] of military personnel.”

For 2015, both the House GOP budget and the Pentagon’s budget keep the same $521 billion defense spending level that was agreed to in the December 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act, which provided the Pentagon with $9 billion in sequester relief in 2015.

That means that the House’s Defense authorization bill will be marked up at the same level as the Pentagon’s request, as the House Armed Services Committee follows the budget passed by the House Budget Committee.

Republican committee members have expressed concerns that the lowered funding level — which is $45 billion less than what the Pentagon planned for last year — will make it difficult to reverse some of the Pentagon’s proposed cuts, like plans to retire the entire A-10 fleet.