Dempsey: Pentagon needs more money

Dempsey: Pentagon needs more money
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday said the Pentagon will need more money in 2016 than it is allowed under defense budget caps put into place by Congress and the White House in 2011. 

“We need additional topline for emerging and additional requirements,” Gen. Martin Dempsey said at the Defense One Summit in Washington.

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Dempsey declined to say how much more the Pentagon needed, although some reports have said the Department of Defense could have a shortfall of as much as $60 billion. 

The spending ceilings were put into place by the sequester, which Congress and President Obama agreed to as part of talks to raise the debt ceiling in 2011.

The Pentagon is scheduled to submit its 2016 budget request to Congress in March, and defense officials have said they are not planning according to the caps imposed by the sequester, which reduced planned defense spending by $500 billion over 10 years, beginning last year.

Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said it’s too soon to know how much additional money the Pentagon will request.

If it submits a request that is higher than its spending cap, lawmakers will have a decision to make.

Harrison predicted Congress would strike “some kind of deal that raises the budget caps slightly.”

Incoming House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters Wednesday that lawmakers are doing their best to solve the problem.

Expected Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said his No. 1 priority is to overturn sequestration. 

Congress agreed to a two-year budget deal in 2014 and 2015 that provided some relief from the sequester.

Defense officials warn that they will not be able to execute the current defense strategy unless the Pentagon is given more money.

“We got to get the support of Congress to de-trigger sequestration,” Dempsey said, adding that he accepted the blame for not better explaining to lawmakers last year the impact of the cuts on the military.

“I swung and I missed,” he said.