In President Barack Obama's 2014 budget request,
political peace breaks out in Washington, and Pentagon funding rides high.
Now, back to reality.
The Pentagon on Wednesday unveiled details of Obama's belated $527 billion base defense budget for next fiscal year. But lawmakers on the left and right savaged the document for days leading up to the public unveiling, seeing the spending guidelines as little more than a fiscal fantasy.
Experts noted that the proposed budget:
* Ignores deep sequestration cuts mandated by federal law, which if left unchanged, would slash almost $52 billion -- nearly 10 percent -- from the numbers issued Wednesday.
* Lacks any real look at war spending for 2014, instead penciling in the request from last year as a placeholder.
* Includes another round of domestic base closings and increases in health care fees for military retirees -- both political nonstarters on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel backed up the White House decision to effectively ignore the automatic cuts imposed by sequestration, presenting a base defense budget that added about $1 billion to the president's 2013 request.
"The President's budget request offers a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that would permit Congress to eliminate sequestration," Hagel said. "That plan averts what would otherwise be another significant reduction in the defense budget -- some $52 billion in fiscal year 2014 alone and $500 billion over a decade. Instead it calls for an additional $150 billion in savings over 10 years."
But if sequestration is not repealed, a comprehensive study of Pentagon strategies and spending Hagel recently ordered is looking for ways to deal with larger cuts while still defending the country, he said.
"We have to plan for budgets... not unmindful of sequestration and what's coming down the road if nothing is done," he said. "We are planning for every eventuality."
According to the Pentagon, "the President's budget includes balanced deficit reduction proposals that are more than sufficient to allow Congress to replace and repeal the sequester-related reductions required by the Budget Control Act of 2011."
Deep ideological divisions in Congress have prevented accord on budget cutting for more than two years, with Republicans insisting on cuts to federal entitlements and nonmilitary spending, while Democrats have pushed for tax increases to raise revenues.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon and the White House are not doing their job of creating a realistic defense budget, analysts said.
"They're in denial about 2014," said Todd Harrison, a budget researcher with the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Travis Sharp, an analyst writing for the Center for New American Security, a Washington think tank with close links to the Obama administration, called the defense budget request "a placebo, a placeholder with no effect."
Obama's tactic of ignoring automatic spending cuts won't forestall major fiscal bleeding for the DOD, which in turn will affect U.S. strategy, he wrote.
In the budget request, the Pentagon said it would continue to implement the defense strategy announced last year, downplaying Middle Eastern stability operations and shifting military emphasis to Asia.
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