President requests 'more disciplined' $613 billion Defense budget

Aaron Favila/AP

President Obama's defense budget of $613.9 billion for fiscal 2013 reflects the downsizing of America's wars abroad and the size of its military, as well as its plans to increase and entrench smaller counter terrorism, special operations and high-tech capabilities globally.

The cut -- a reduction of $40 billion, or six percent, from current year spending -- includes a 20 percent slash in Afghanistan war spending, increasing weaponry intended for Asian-Pacific security, while deferring legacy weapons purchases and personnel costs into future years.

“We are redoubling our efforts to make better use of the taxpayer’s defense dollar,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, in a statement released with budget documents at the Pentagon on Monday. Panetta is not expected to appear Monday, going instead to three hearings scheduled before Congress this week.

The White House wants $525.4 billion for the regular defense budget and $88.5 billion for the separate war account. The war request includes $85.6 billion for Afghanistan, which is down from $105 billion in 2012, and $2.5 billion for Iraq. Most of the decline in Afghan war spending reflects the operational savings from pulling out the remaining 23,000 surge forces by September.

DOD also requests $178.8 billion for acquisitions, or $109.1 billion for procurement and $67.9 billion for research and development, a crucial account for the nervous defense industry. 

A greater total spending cut is forecast for 2014, appearing to come entirely from war accounts. But the Pentagon forecasts its base spending will increase by roughly $10 billion in each of the following four years after 2013. That's a 0.3 percent decrease in spending for the next five years.

There were no surprises in the increased budgets for U.S. priority accounts, include special operations forces, at $10.4 billion next year, as well as drones, cybersecurity, and missile defense. DOD slashed $15 billion from the still-breathing Joint Strike Fighter’s development, due to forced delays in planned purchases. The Army’s search for a next generation ground combat vehicle and Navy shipbuilding also were cut.

Cutting 72,000 soldiers, 20,000 Marines and thousands more sailors and airmen accounts for $50 billion savings over five years.

The Pentagon claims $60 billion of its total savings next year will come from “efficiencies”, an ongoing DOD effort to trim its own expenses and waste that watchdogs have complained was hard to track and verify.

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