FY16 Budget Takes Center Stage

March 6, 2015

Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey (USA), testified before Congress over the merits of the FY 2016 budget proposal. 

Carter supported the budget, saying it would allow the military to defend the country and fight wars. Dempsey provided a different view, saying the proposed defense budget provides “no slack, no margin left for error or strategic surprise.”

The administration’s proposed budget is $38 billion over the self-imposed restraints of the 2011 Budget Control Act. Failure to change the BCA will trigger automatic and arbitrary cuts, known as sequestration.

Carter stressed to the committee that, “We cannot meet sequester with further half measures.” Instead of savings, Carter says that sequestration “frequently leads to waste – as, for example, when it forces a reduction in contract production rates, driving up unit costs.”

Both men urged Congress to fund the defense department above sequestration levels.

Congress provided some relief to defense planners in a controversial 2013 budget deal, but without additional action, the full brunt of sequestration is set to return to the defense department in October.

In a Feb. 27 letter to the Senate Budget Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) called sequestration “a national security crisis of the first order.”

In a similar letter to House Budget Committee counterparts, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said, “reducing our military spending in the hopes of improving our financial situation may well bring about more instability in the world.”

According to the letter, at sequestration levels, the military will not have enough money to pay for its current requirements.

HASC members seem poised to balk at sequestration funding levels. In remarks on Mar. 4, Representative Rob Wittman (R-Va.) warned House Budget Committee members that any budget resolution coming under the president’s budget request will not pass the House.

While debt reduction is a national priority, Congress cannot ignore the serious threats to national security that sequestration imposes.