Defense Comptroller Robert Hale

Defense Comptroller Robert Hale Charles Dharapak/AP

Threatened delay in defense budget adds to planners’ uncertainty

Comptroller Hale puts new Pentagon sequestration figure at $45 billion.

Pentagon spokesmen’s recent allusions to possible delays in the fiscal 2014 defense budget have added to the fog of uncertainty surrounding planning for the government’s largest spending category, according to analysts.

Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale on Monday told a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution that “some delay is almost inevitable” given the changes in deadlines and spending cuts under a possible sequestration made through the American Taxpayer Relief Act that Congress passed New Year’s Day. “We are transmitting to the Office of Management and Budget right now,” Hale said. Any delay in the traditional early February budget release “will be OMB’s call.”

On Jan. 3 Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters, “I think we could submit a budget in February. I'm not ruling that out. But we need to define what the timeline is in the coming days and weeks.” He added that “this is what happens when you don't have a rational debate on the federal budget.”

OMB did not respond to requests for comment.

Under the new law, the automatic across-the-board cuts that would be forced if Congress fails to enact a new deficit-reducing spending plan would trim the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget by roughly $45 billion, or 9 percent of the budget, Hale said. That compares with 12 percent of the budget under the earlier scope of sequestration, though, like all departments, Defense would have fewer months to make the cuts.

“The fiscal cliff bill made for some further reductions,” Hale noted, “but the national security challenges haven’t gotten any less complex. It’s hard to plan. We would be better served if Congress had adopted and stayed with a stable budget plan,” he said, adding that he personally had coordinated four government shut-down drills in recent years while working under two long-term continuing resolutions from Congress. “It really hogties the department and its ability to manage with a number of legal restrictions,” he said.

In implementing Defense’s year-old strategic road map, Hale said, the department is prepared for further cuts as Congress maneuvers around the March expiration of the continuing resolution, the need to raise the debt ceiling and looming sequestration.

“We definitely need more stability in the budget size and particularly the budget process,” he said, also stressing the need for an overarching strategy and a continuing discipline to do more with less. “I have never seen a period of greater budget uncertainty. It gives a whole new meaning to March Madness.”

Though the department has not delved to the level of detail concerning the 2,500 Pentagon projects that might be disrupted under sequestration’s indiscriminate cuts, Hale said, if Congress gives his planners a dollar figure and authority to make choices, the cuts would most likely come first in the areas of long-term investment rather than in wartime operations.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Government Executive that the recent deal to avert the fiscal cliff reduced the Pentagon’s fiscal 2014 budget cap by $4 billion, which will require adjustments. “It seems to make sense for DoD and the rest of the federal government to delay submission perhaps until March or as late as April,” he said. “It’s hard to cut at the end of the budget cycle when DoD has already finished its budget and is awaiting the passback from OMB,” he added. It’s not feasible at this stage to fundamentally rework the force structure or acquisition programs, he said. So instead of “revolutionary changes, it will probably be $4 billion of nip and tuck.”

Anthony Cordesman, a national security strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Pentagon’s new budget situation is “problematic because the fiscal 2014 submission interacts with the uncertainty of the fiscal 2013 budget and the legacy of former Secretary Robert Gates. If we’re going to create any stable programming structure, we need some baseline for both fiscal ‘13 and ’14,” he said.

“You also need things clarified as to what are the priorities under the new strategy,” Cordesman said. The fiscal 2014 budget must factor in what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan and what the U.S. presence and capability should be in that war-torn country. It must also reflect the shift in focus to Asia and the changing Middle East, he said. “For anyone actually in government or the defense industry, they are asking 'What do you do, what do you think you’re planning for?' ”

Congress has created a typically untenable situation, according to Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight. “With all the things to hold Congress in contempt for, the persistent refusal to pass appropriations bills on time, especially for defense, ranks high,” he said. “Annual appropriations for the national defense is a constitutional requirement that both Democrats and Republicans slip by -- technically -- with continuing resolutions worded in a way to maintain Congress' pretense at controlling money rather than a minimal amount necessary. This disgrace has now become routine. Both political parties are responsible.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.