The FY2011 security budgets (DoD, homeland security, and military construction/veteran’s affairs) would be $16 billion lower than the president’s request under a House Budget Resolution announced yesterday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the House Budget Committee. For the total FY2011 federal budget, the resolution would set the budget authority level at $1.055 trillion, $74 billion less than the request. Ryan was acting under a rule (H.Res-5, Sec.3 (b) passed by the House earlier this year directing the House Budget Committee chair to set the FY2011 discretionary budget authority unilaterally, without formal action by the House Budget Committee or the full House.
The proposed cut to security budgets in FY2011 represents a significant change in approach to reducing the deficit. Until this action, most recommendations to cut the budget have concentrated on non security budgets and exempted security budget cuts from consideration, at least in the short-term. It now appears that defense cuts have become a serious part of the budget cutting discussion and congressional action.
House appropriators appeared ready to carry out the proposed budget cuts in the appropriations process. House Appropriations Committee (HAC) chair Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) released a table showing how his committee plans to allocate the $1.055 trillion total FY2011 budget limit set by the House Budget Resolution among the twelve subcommittees. Non security agencies budgets would be reduced by $58 billion. Of the $16 billion cut to security budgets, $13 billion would come from the DoD budget (less military construction). This is a much larger cut to FY2011 DoD request than previously considered by Congress. In December, the House passed a FY2011 Continuous Appropriations bill (not considered in the Senate) that cut the DoD request by over $7 billion. In May, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up a DoD appropriations bill (which did not go to the Senate floor) that lowered the DoD request by almost $8 billion.
Even though the House has moved out on the FY2011 congressional budget review process, the way ahead is still unclear. The Senate has not yet indicated how and when it will act. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) have acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and expressed their willingness to consider further budget reductions. However, there is no indication that they are prepared to cut as deeply as the House proposes. There is also no clear view of what Congress expects the final appropriations action to be. It could be a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR) with some detail by agency, an Omnibus Appropriations bill that includes separate appropriations for each agency, or some combination. So, there is still much work to be done in the Congress and it seems unlikely that a final agreement will be reached before the current Continuing Resolution runs out on March 4, 2011. If this is the case, a short-term extension (perhaps for a few weeks) of the CR will be necessary to keep the government running while Congress finalizes a bill or bills to send to the president.