Pentagon Spending Still Slated to Rise
Aug 2, 2012
Look at What Happened to Military Spending Since 2001
Military spending more than doubled between 2001 and 2010. With troops coming home from Afghanistan, the Pentagon was already planning a brief drop in its budget through about 2012. But Pentagon plans in 2011 called for more dramatic increases, to nearly $800 billion by 2021.
The Budget Control Act, adopted by Congress in August 2011, turned things around a bit.
First, it set caps (limits) on discretionary spending -- for both military and non-military programs -- that would save about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Responding to that requirement, the Pentagon (and the White House) proposed a military budget that saved about half of that total -- $487 billion -- over the next 10 years. (The military budget comprises about half of all discretionary spending.)
Coming Right Up
In addition, the Budget Control Act required one of two additional steps to reduce the federal debt:
- Congress would agree to a plan negotiated by a "supercommittee" that would reduce the debt by another $1.2 trillion,
- OR an automatic cut would go into effect on January 1, 2013.
For 2013, the automatic cut applies across the board to all programs evenly. Congress will have no say in what exactly gets cut, if sequester goes into effect.
In 2014 through 2021, the cuts are divided between military and non-military programs -- and they cover both discretionary and mandatory (or "entitlement" programs). The military budget is almost all discretionary spending.
Appropriations committees covering each area of programs would make decisions about how the cuts fall.
Military Spending Would Be Cut Further
Each year, the cap on military spending would be about $55 billion lower than the Pentagon has already planned on, in its FY 2013 budget proposal.
Even so, military spending would continue to go up, and by 2021, it will nearly reach the peak war-time spending of 2008 and 2009.
What About Other Programs?
Domestic programs will be affected in a similar way by sequestration, except that, during the time when the Pentagon budget was increasing rapidly, many domestic programs were not keeping up with needs.
So child poverty has continued to grow. UNICEF now rates the U.S. as having the second highest rate of child hunger among developed nations.
Unemployment continues to be stubbornly high, and homelessness has increased. Returning veterans face both of these problems along with everyone else. While veterans' medical care and disability pensions are protected from these cuts, jobs programs and housing assistance are not.
Aren't the Poverty Programs Exempt from Cuts?
Some of the large assistance programs -- the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, SNAP (food stamps), child nutrition, Medicaid, Children's Heath Insurance Program-- along with Social Security and federal retirement are exempted from the across the board cuts.
But the domestic half of the budget still has to absorb an equal level of cuts with the Pentagon budget. So the programs that aren't exempt -- in education, environmental protection, roads and transportation, job creation and training, housing, social services, elder care, child protection, and hundreds of other valuable activities will be severely curtailed under a sequester.
It is important to our economic health as a nation to reduce the federal debt by creating a better balance between revenues and spending.
- All parts of the budget -- including the revenue side -- need to be adjusted toward that goal.
- A sequester is not an ideal way to proceed, especially when every program -- from unneeded weapons purchases to food for children -- are treated the same.
We at FCNL are urging Congress to adopt a plan that protects domestic and international programs for low-income and vulnerable people, reduces Pentagon spending by $1 trillion over the next ten years, and restores lost revenues to bring down deficit spending. Without cuts in Pentagon spending of at least the magnitude, Congress is likely to reduce support of critical domestic programs to unsustainable levels.