According to Congressional Quarterly, Fox News got its story wrong on Obama’s planned defense spending. This weekend, Fox reported an Obama mandate of ten percent reductions across the board. CQ reports that Obama has given Defense Secretary Robert Gates an upper limit of $527 billion for non-war spending in FY2010 — which would be an 8% increase in defense spending:
The Obama administration has given the Pentagon a $527 billion limit, excluding war costs, for its fiscal 2010 defense budget, an Office of Management and Budget official said Monday.
If enacted, that would be an 8 percent increase from the $487.7 billion allocated for fiscal 2009 (PL 110-329), and it would match what the Bush administration estimated last year for the Pentagon in fiscal 2010. But it sets up a potential conflict between the new administration and the Defense Department’s entrenched bureaucracy, which has remained largely intact through the presidential transition.
Some Pentagon officials and congressional conservatives are already trying to portray the OMB number as a cut by comparing it to a $584 billion draft fiscal 2010 budget request compiled last fall by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The $527 billion figure is “what the Bush people thought was the right number last February and that’s the number we’re going with,” said the OMB official, who declined to be identified. “The Joint Chiefs did that to lay down a marker for the incoming administration that was unrealistic. It’s more of a wish list than anything else.”
If that was what Fox did, then they should apologize. Lord knows the Left did this constantly with the Bush administration, screeching about supposed cutbacks at the VA while the Bush administration was rapidly increasing spending at the agency, but not as fast as the Left wanted. Budget comparisons are not that complicated — an increase is an increase, and a cut is a cut, but an increase above the rate of inflation is never a cut, in either the Bush or the Obama administration.
An eight percent increase seems like a reasonable amount, and could get amplified with an effort to clean up defense contracting and spending. Getting pork out of the defense budget would certainly help in that regard, but if the stimulus package give any indication, the Obama administration doesn’t have much interest in that kind of change. Congress likes to complain that the Pentagon’s procurement processes waste money — and it does — but Congress forces them into spending hundreds of millions each year in non-competitive contracting that makes the situation worse.
It would also help if Congress would stop appropriating money for war efforts in Afghanistan and maintenance efforts in Iraq in supplemental spending bills. Not only does undermine any sense of stability in funding, it also lends itself to even more pork and less accountability. Gates estimates that he will need $70 billion in war funding in 2009, which should have been made part of the overall spending package. Supplementals should only get used to fund unforeseen missions, and since we’ve been in Afghanistan for more than seven years and Iraq for almost six, those stopped qualifying in 2004 at the latest.
At any rate, it’s good to know that Obama hasn’t really cut the defense budget as Fox initially reported during a time of war. Now, if we could get them to cut the rest of the budget ….