GOP budget boosts defense spending

The House Republican budget released Tuesday would shield the Pentagon from nearly $500 billion in automatic cuts and roll back some of the $487 billion reduction approved in last year’s Budget Control Act. 

The plan from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) asks six congressional committees — but not Armed Services — to find $261 billion in savings to help roll back the automatic cuts through sequestration that were triggered by the failure of the supercommittee.

The Ryan plan also increases national defense spending to $554 billion in 2013, an increase of $8 billion over the $546 billion that was agreed to under the Budget Control Act.

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That would reverse some of the $487 billion in cuts that the Pentagon has planned to implement over the next decade. Over 10 years, the Ryan budget would spend $6.2 trillion on defense, which is higher than the $5.97 trillion level set under the Budget Control Act. 

The first section of Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” is focused on defense, and it contains stinging charges that President Obama is weakening national security.

“Rather than choosing to lead by addressing the fundamental drivers of near‐ and long-term deficits and debt, the president has defaulted to slashing the defense budget,” Ryan stated in his plan. “The unmistakable fact is that the president has chosen to subordinate national security strategy to his other spending priorities.”

The budget reverses the $97 billion in automatic cuts triggered by the failure of the supercommittee and instructs six committees to find $261 billion in savings over 10 years to offset the impact on federal spending. The Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Ways and Means committees are asked to find $18 billion in savings in the fiscal 2013 budget.

The instructions come under the umbrella of budget reconciliation, a fast-track procedure that could help Congress find a quick way to avoid the automatic cuts before they take effect in January 2013.

For years after 2013, automatic cuts are reflected in annual spending caps rather than an Office of Management and Budget sequester. The Ryan plan deals with these cuts by changing the caps on future discretionary spending and capping mandatory spending.

Ryan’s plan suggests possible areas to cut instead of defense spending, including federal pensions, repeal of the Democrats’ financial reform bill, healthcare, means-testing entitlements and medical liability reform.

House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who has vowed to undo the automatic cuts to defense, said he supports the way Ryan’s plan reverses sequestration.

“Rather than hampering our troops with the specter of blind and massive cuts in the years to come, Chairman Ryan pays down sequestration for the first year, giving us all time to find a comprehensive solution,” McKeon said in a statement. “This is a budget our military can live with, and one I am happy to support.”

Ryan’s budget plan tackles sequestration differently than McKeon’s bill, which stops the first year of sequestration by cutting the federal workforce. But the budget accomplishes the same goals that McKeon has set out of reversing sequestration and increasing defense spending over the caps in the Budget Control Act

To read more about the Republican budget, go to The Hill’s On the Money blog.

This story was updated at 12:26 p.m.

— Erik Wasson contributed.