Defense Department officials are working with the Office of Management and Budget on guidance issued yesterday that all agencies’ fiscal 2013 budget requests be at least 5 percent less than current appropriations.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters today that Defense officials are working with OMB to determine what that will mean for the DOD budget.
“I don’t think this is necessarily a sea-change event,” he said, adding that Pentagon officials for months have been working toward a goal of cutting $400 billion from the budget over the next 10 years.
The budget for fiscal 2011, which ends Sept. 30, provides $528.9 billion for the base budget and $159 billion for overseas contingency operations.
“As always, we will work with OMB,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during a broader interview with American Forces Press Service and other military media representatives today. “They provide all kinds of guidance as we discuss how we approach these issues.”
Budget officials are trying to anticipate some of the challenges the government will face in the months ahead. Panetta, who was the OMB director for President Bill Clinton, said his focus remains on the $400 billion – a target in line with $350 billion Congress identified in legislation to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit that President Barack Obama signed Aug. 2.
Under the new law, a bipartisan congressional committee will work to identify $1.5 trillion in federal budget savings and make a recommendation to Congress by Nov. 23. If Congress fails to act on the committee’s recommendation by Dec. 23, an across-government spending cut of $1.2 trillion over 10 years will go into effect in a process known as “sequestration.” Half of those cuts would come from national security spending, including the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and others.
Panetta said he is focused on the $400 billion target as a goal that can be met without endangering defense. “As to other scenarios that OMB may direct, I frankly have said that if we have to go to a sequester scenario where we have to double defense cuts here, that it will be disastrous,” he said.
Meanwhile, OMB typically advises agencies of their top-line budget requests in November. The guidance OMB released yesterday advises agencies to prepare for overall budget requests that are 5 percent below their current appropriations, while also identifying discretionary spending reductions that are at least 10 percent below their current levels. The memo qualifies that the guidance should be followed “unless your agency has been given explicit direction otherwise by OMB.”
The memo from OMB Director Jack Lew further advises agencies to “double down” on programs that “provide the best opportunity to enhance economic growth,” cut or eliminate low-priority and ineffective ones, and consolidate duplicative ones.
By following the guidance, Lew said, “you will provide the president with the information to make the tough choices necessary to meet the hard spending targets in place and the needs of the nation.”