The 2011 budget law allows only $549 billion for national defense this year, far below the $626 billion base budget that both the House and Senate endorsed in their annual defense policy legislation in November.

“There is this assumption that there is this broad support for an increase in the defense budget, and everyone sort of feels good about that,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, admonished attendees at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum, which was sponsored by nearly two dozen leading Pentagon contractors. “I don’t see it happening, OK? When you look at what’s going on with our appropriations discussion, we are no closer to an appropriations agreement today than we were last February, because as much as people want to spend more money on defense, they also want tax cuts. They also want a balanced budget.