The FY2015 DoD base budget request totals $495.6 billion for discretionary budget authority, essentially the same amount enacted in FY2014. The budget request is in line with the bipartisan budget act.
The budget request also includes a $79.4 billion funding placeholder for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), about $6 lower than the FY2014 enacted amount. A detailed request will be submitted after final decisions are made on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
DoD’s five-year budget plan for FY2015 to FY2019 is $113 billion lower than included in last year’s budget plan.
In a press statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the budget “recognizes the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, the dangerous world we live in, and the American military’s unique and indispensable role in this country and today’s volatile world.” But, the statement also acknowledged that the plan comes with “some increased levels of risk.”
DoD’s budget overview states the FY2015 budget seeks to accomplish six goals: balance the force; prepare for prolonged readiness challenges; continue to focus on institutional reform; pursue compensation changes; pursue investments in emerging military capabilities; and reduce infrastructure.
The Army’s FY2015 budget request totals $120.3 billion (24.3% of the total DoD budget) down $1.4 billion from the FY2014 enacted level. The Navy’s budget (including the Marine Corps) totals $147.7 billion (29.8%) $361 million above FY2014. The Air Force base budget request is $137.8 billion (27.8%), up $3.1 billion. The budget request for Defense-wide accounts is $89.8 billion (18.1%), $2.5 billion below the previous year.
The budget plan moves DoD off a war footing for the first time since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The Army will accelerate its troop drawdown plan to lower active end strength level to 490,000 from a post 9/11 high of 570,000. Under the new plan, the Army active troop levels will drop to between 440,000 and 450,000 by 2019, the lowest Army strength level since 1940.
Army National Guard and Reserve strength levels would also decline. Army National Guard strength would drop to 335,000 from 355,000 and Army Reserves strength would be 195,000 compared to 205,000 now.
The FY2015 budget would raise military pay by 1 percent, but freeze general and flag officer pay for one year. The budget also funds a 1 percent pay raise for civilians.
The budget plan proposes a number of program terminations. The Army would end the Ground Combat Vehicle program and use funding to develop a next generation platform. The Air Force would retire the entire A-10 fleet, saving $3.5 billion over five years. The A-10 would be replaced by F-35’s. The Air Force would also retire the 50 year old U-2 spy plane and replace it with the unmanned Global Hawk.
The Navy would maintain 11 carrier strike groups under the budget plan. The final decision on the George Washington aircraft carrier would be deferred until the FY2016 budget. Secretary Hagel has warned that if sequestration was re-implemented in 2016, the Navy would have to retire the ship.
The FY2015 budget request continues to pursue reductions that enable DoD to reduce costs and redirect funding to more important priorities. Comptroller Bob Hale told reporters that the plan contains efficiency savings of $94 billion over five years. He said the savings proposals include: “making judicious cuts in our contract funding, [and] eliminating lower priority contracts.” The budget request also restructures the civilian workforce, makes some health care changes, slows the growth in military compensation, and asks Congress to approve another Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) round.
The Basic Allowance for Housing would be reduced over five years to provide 95 percent of housing expenses from the current 100 percent.
The budget plan would also cut $1 billion ($1.4 billion to $400 million) from the annual commissary subsidy over the next three years. Overseas commissaries would continue to receive subsidies as would some in remote areas in the U.S. DoD does not propose to close any commissaries.
The budget proposes to modernize and consolidate TRICARE programs for retirees under age 65, saving hundreds of dollars, according to DoD. Some TRICARE co-pay increases are proposed, but includes no changes for retirees. Final decisions are awaiting completion of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission report.
DoD asks Congress to approve another BRAC round in 2017. Hale said DoD has “at least 25 percent uneeded infrastructure.” “If we can’t get Congress to allow us to close it, then we’re simply going to waste the taxpayer’s money, he added.” Congress has denied recent requests for BRAC rounds and remains skeptical about their need and effectiveness.
Additional detail (including Military Service briefings) on the FY2014 DoD budget request is available on the DoD Comptroller website.