FPI Resources on the Defense Budget

September 24, 2014

By FPI Executive Director Christopher J. Griffin

Largely ignored during Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s flurry of testimony last week was his answer to Senator Jim Inhofe’s question as to whether the Defense Department has sufficient funding – “No.”  General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, elaborated, “it’s not a problem that we can solve just with [Overseas Contingency Funding]… there is a base budget issue here, too, we have to get to.”

At the heart of this funding crisis is the Budget Control Act, a law that is scheduled to slash defense spending from 3.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) when President Obama took office to just 2.8 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2015.  The congressionally-mandated, bipartisan National Defense Panel concluded this summer that these cuts “constitute a serious strategic misstep on the part of the United States” that has “prompted our current and potential allies and adversaries to question our commitment and resolve.”

When Congress returns after the election recess, members will have a first opportunity to debate how to address these dangerous shortfalls.  The path forward is clear:

  • As National Defense Panel (NDP) members Eric Edelman and Michèle Flournoy wrote in a recent op-ed reiterating the conclusions of the NDP: “[R]epeal the Budget Control Act immediately, end the threat of sequestration and return, at a minimum, to funding levels proposed by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his fiscal 2012 budget.”  Even if Congress approved the modest spending increases requested by Mr. Obama earlier this year, the Defense Department would still be forced to cancel training and modernization programs, while the Armed Forces shed tens of thousands of trained personnel.
  • As Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently urged in a speech on defense policy, the President should “request to Congress for additional funding for our military above the amount he requested in February.”  The $500 million that the President has requested for the train and equip mission in the fight against ISIS should only be a starting point for this conversation, which as General Dempsey observed, must address the base budget’s shortfalls.

If the President and Congress accept the NDP’s core recommendation, they must find slightly more than $100 billion in funding for the Defense Department in the coming fiscal year.  This level of funding could be applied immediately to restore readiness and cancel planned cuts to size of the military.  Going forward, it could enable the Pentagon to develop a better plan to implement the full recommendations of the NDP and effect a robust national defense strategy.

The Foreign Policy Initiative suggests the following resources as policymakers, lawmakers, and the general public consider how to restore America’s defense budget.


National Defense Panel

FPI Resources

Additional Resources

See also:

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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