Budget historians, remember Nov. 2, 2015: the day that disciplined defense budgeting died in Washington. On that day, President Barack Obama signed a deal to fund the government through FY 2017, a deal that threw the Pentagon another $33 billion more for defense than it received in FY 2015. But judging from the crocodile tears already flowing from the gatekeepers of defense spending and policy in Washington, you wouldn’t know it.
Just days after the White House and Congress hashed out the budget, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, turned into a virtual mini-Boehner, crying over the daunting task of getting from the $38 billion defense increase he wanted to the $33 billion he got in the deal. “There will be real programs that are cut.… We are looking at them all and trying to do the least damage, but nobody should be under the illusion that you can do this in a non-painful way,” he said on Nov. 2. On that same day, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work doubled down, saying that while the Pentagon might just be able to squeak through with an FY 2016 budget increase of more than 6 percent, the extra $23 billion for defense in FY 2017 resulting from the deal (which raised the FY 2017 cap, as well) would be a real struggle. “We calculate it will be about a $14 billion [gap] in that given year [relative to] what we had planned,” Work said. “That’s going to be a harder target to hit, and we’re working through that right now.”
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