First look: fiscal 2015 DOD budget hits procurement and research hard

March 4, 2014
THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 4 March 2014. Today was the day for release of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget request for fiscal 2015, and it looks like tough sledding for another year in the electronics-heavy procurement and research accounts.
THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 4 March 2014. Today was the day for release of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget request for fiscal 2015, and it looks like tough sledding for another year in the electronics-heavy procurement and research accounts.

Overall the Pentagon is asking for $495.6 billion in discretionary budget authority for fiscal 2015, which begins next October 1. This is big money by any measure, and Pentagon experts are spinning the top-line 2015 DOD budget request as close to the amount that Congress allocated for the military this year.

The top-line number is in line with the number Congress agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act last year. What we're not hearing, however, is how this request differs from the Pentagon's top-line budget request for this year.

One year ago when the Pentagon 2014 budget request came out, the DOD was asking for $526.6 billion in discretionary budget authority, which makes this year's top-line request a one-year reduction of $31 billion.

Related: Cutting the Army to historic low troop levels: do we realize where this might lead?

As we reported last week, the latest Pentagon budget request would reduce active-duty fighting forces in the Army and Marine Corps substantially, and is slowing the growth of military pay. Some might ask if these savings might be transferred over to the technology accounts, but I'm not seeing direct evidence of that.

The 2015 DOD request for procurement is $90.4 billion. Procurement is where many of the big-ticket military programs are, and from this account comes money for new ships, planes, combat vehicles, and the like. This $90.4 billion request for procurement is down from the 2014 request of $115.1 billion, and so represents a reduction of nearly $25 billion.

The procurement budget is not all bad news for the defense industry, however. It contains $4.6 billion for 26 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters next year, and $31.7 billion for 238 additional Joint Strike Fighters over the next several years.

Related: Blog: military spending takes hits in 2014, but cuts aren't as bad as they could have been

The request also has $2.4 billion for seven KC-46 tankers next year, and for 69 more of these aircraft in future years. Losers in the 2015 budget request include the A-10 Warthog close-air-support aircraft, the U-2 spy plane, and the Army Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), all of which have been eliminated.

Special Operations continues to be a high priority for the Pentagon. The 2015 budget request contains $7.7 billion, which DOD officials say represents a 10 percent increase over this year's appropriated levels. This would support a Special Operations force of 69,700 personnel, with the resources for full-spectrum training, global capabilities, and regional expertise, DOD officials say.

The Pentagon's budget for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E), likewise, is headed down. The DOD's research budget has been going down steadily now for several consecutive years, and the 2015 request of $63.5 billion represents a one-year cut of $4 billion. The 2014 RDT&E request was $67.5 billion.

Now there may be money hidden in the 2015 DOD budget request that could be used for technology. The so-called Overseas Contingency Operations budget -- the one that contains money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- has $79 billion in it for 2015. That amount will be negotiable with Congress, but still could yield money for small systems and technology upgrades.

Related: SURPRISE: DOD 2014 proposed budget is UP slightly over last year's Pentagon budget submission

There's a new contingency fund in the 2015 Pentagon budget, which officials are calling the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative. The Pentagon is asking for $26.4 billion for this fund, which also could be used for immediate military needs in the field, as well as high-priority systems upgrades and technology insertion.

The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative is described as to be used "to improve readiness (including additional funding for Joint Strike Fighters and P-8 aircraft and more spending on the Army Black Hawk program). Base sustainment and military construction funding would also be increased. The initiative will be paid for with a balanced package of mandatory spending reductions and tax reforms."

Well, we'll see how that actually translates, and how Congress will treat this request. Now that the Pentagon's budget request has been made public, it's all up to Congress now to consider these line items and come up with its own military spending plan, which we'll see sometime next fall.

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