As part of its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015, the Obama Administration proposed a $58 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI). As described by the White House, it is “a fully-paid for $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative showing where additional investments should be made in critical areas to create more jobs and opportunity and help the country reach its full potential. The Initiative is split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary funding and includes investments in the critical areas of education; research and innovation; infrastructure and jobs; opportunity and mobility; public health, safety and security; more efficient and effective Government; and national defense.” Approximately $26 billion of the OGSI would go to defense, the remainder to a number of domestic programs.
The Department of Defense (DoD) certainly could use the additional resources. Although the Ryan-Murray budget deal provided some relief for the Pentagon from the impacts of sequestration for FY2014 and FY2015, the impacts of the Budget Control Act have been severe. The FY2015 budget is $35 billion below the peak of defense spending just two years ago; it is $45 billion below what the President proposed by FY2015 just last year. The consequences of sequestration have included force structure cuts, deferred maintenance and truncated modernization plans.
The Pentagon has been very clear what it would do with the $26 billion. A big chunk of the money would go to readiness enhancements including spare parts and logistics for the Navy and Army, Marine Corps and Air Force training. Most of the rest would be spent on investment increases: 56 Army helicopters, two F-35 fighters, eight Navy P-8 and one E-2D aircraft, USMC Light Armored Vehicles, 10 C-130J transports and 12 MQ-9 unmanned systems. There would also be some funds added to the science and technology and infrastructure accounts.
The FY2015 defense budget assumes some greater efficiencies and successful cost containment efforts. DoD will continue on a path to cut by 20 percent headquarters staffs and overhead costs. In addition, the budget proposes modest cuts to the rate of growth of military pay, health care and subsidies. It does not assume another round of base closures, although Secretary Hagel has indicated he will ask to begin the process leading to a new base realignment and closure (BRAC) commission in FY2017.
Unfortunately, Congress has registered its strong opposition to many of the measures the Pentagon proposed in order to reduce its costs and avoid even deeper cuts in forces and programs. Lawmakers have weighed in against a BRAC. In recent days, a number of members of Congress also voiced concern about changes to military compensation arguing that it was unfair to balance the budget on the backs of our service members. Others are trying to pressure the Pentagon not to go forward with force structure cuts and force structure realignments.
If Congress is going to oppose most DoD efforts to reduce unnecessary expenditures and thereby generate budgetary savings that can be used to support readiness and modernization, then the least it should do is approve the OGSI.
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