Military readiness accounts hit hard in proposed 2014 DOD operations and maintenance budget

WASHINGTON, 17 April 2013. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) would slash its operations and maintenance budget by nearly 20 percent next year in a direct reflection of shrinking military readiness levels in the post-sequestration era.

The DOD budget proposed 2014 operations and maintenance (O&M) spending for next year is $207.95 billion, which is down nearly 20 percent from the 2013 request of $259.79 billion. These numbers reflect proposed O&M budgets for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and independent DOD agencies. Federal fiscal year 2014 runs from 1 Oct. 2013 to 30 Sept. 2014.

Operations and maintenance is a direct reflection of military readiness. These accounts essentially indicate the level of military personnel training and keeping military equipment in good repair. Cuts in the O&M budget necessarily mean less training and a compromise in keeping equipment in tip-top shape.

The O&M budget funds activities such as steaming hours for Navy warships, flying hours for military fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter pilots, training time for armored combat vehicle crews, and infantry exercises, as well as maintenance for ships, submarines, aircraft, fighting vehicles, and other critical military equipment.

"Resources dedicated to O&M reflect the Department’s commitment to readiness," DOD officials admit. The Army -- the nation's front-line force in warfare and peace-keeping operations throughout the world -- would take the biggest cut in O&M, facing a reduction of 40.1 percent in 2014 from the previous year's request.

For 2014 the Army is asking for $45.22 billion for O&M, which is down sharply from the service's O&M request of $76.08 billion in 2013. The Navy and Marine Corps, meanwhile, face a 14.26 cut in O&M next year, the Air Force faces a 13 percent cut, and independent defense agencies face an 8.14 percent cut.

Next year the Navy and Marine Corps are asking for $47.66 bill for O&M, down from $55.59 billion in 2013. The Air Force is asking for $47 billion for O&M next year, down from $54 billion this year, and defense agencies are asking for $68.1 billion in O&M, down from $74.1 billion this year.

Despite these proposed deep cuts in operations and maintenance accounts next year, Pentagon officials insist that reductions in the nation's military readiness will be minimal.

"readiness priorities currently funded in the FY 2014 budget will preclude moving toward a hollow force," Pentagon officials said in the 2014 Pentagon budget overview. "The readiness investments in this budget made in training technologies, force protection, command and control, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems sustains our standing as the most formidable military force in the world."

In their 2014 budget overview, however, DOD officials warn of the immediate cuts they face from sequestration. "The effects of sequestration will require the Department to cut roughly $41 billion from the annualized level of FY 2013 funding in the last six months of the fiscal year," officials wrote.

"Should this specter of sequestration hanging over FY 2013 and FY 2014 budget years become a long-term reality it will make it nearly impossible to sustain most of the readiness initiatives presented in the budget," officials say.

The Pentagon's proposed 2014 budget would end sequestration. Now the proposed military budget goes to Congress for consideration. Overall, DOD is asking Congress next year for $526.6 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is up slightly from last year's request of $525.4 billion.

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