Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 17 Dec. 2013. Finally, some good news out of Washington. Leaders from the U.S. House and Senate have reached a budget deal that would restore billions of dollars to the U.S. Department of Defense over the next two years that without this congressional agreement would have been slashed from the Pentagon's budget as part of sequestration.

As of this writing, threats of filibuster in the Senate have been put down, and chances are good that the Senate will approve the budget deal later this week and send the legislation on to President Obama for his signature. The deal would restore $31.5 billion to the Pentagon over the next two years.

Okay, so $31.5 billion doesn't sound like all that much when we're talking about the Defense Department, which has an annual budget of hundreds of billions of dollars. Still, it's something once you start to think about it.

So how much is $31.5 billion for the Pentagon? It equates to about 158 F-35 joint strike fighters, about five Zumwalt-class destroyers, or back in the day would have equated to about seven Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

It's easy to dismiss a few tens of billions of dollars where the Pentagon is concerned, but put in these terms it's easy to understand that it's actually a substantial amount.

Here's what I'm thinking if this new budget deal becomes law: fewer layoffs in the U.S. defense industry, some precious budget numbers that can enable defense companies to start planning and emerge from a long period of uncertainty, and perhaps one or two new program starts to go along with revitalized programs to upgrade existing military systems. Maybe uniformed military personnel can start attending trade shows again.

These doesn't mean that good times are here again for the Pentagon; there still are many years of financial austerity ahead. Still, for an industry that has been knocked around for the past few years, there finally is some encouraging news.

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