Research: Publications

Talking About Military Spending and the Pentagon Budget -- Fiscal Year 2013 (And Beyond)

February 8, 2012 | Policy Brief

By Carl Conetta, Christopher Hellman

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Q: There’s been a lot of conflicting reports in the media in recent months about possible cuts to Pentagon spending. What are the numbers, and what’s really going on?

A: The new Pentagon budget plan released on Jan. 26 sets the Defense Department’s annual “base” budget for Fiscal Year 2013 at $525 billion – 46 percent above the 1998 level. Adjusted for inflation the change from 2012 to 2013 will be a reduction of 3.2 percent. In addition the base budget jumped 55 percent after inflation between 1998 and 2010. These figures do not include war costs or the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy.

As the chart below shows, current defense spending levels – even without funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – are higher than at any time since World War II when adjusted for inflation.

Q: Recently the Pentagon announced its new strategic plan which will guide how it trims $259 billion from its budget over the next five years. What’s in it?

A: On Jan. 5 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey – joined by President Obama in a rare visit to the Pentagon – rolled out the military’s new strategic plan.

Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey’s briefing was short on detail, but here are the basics:

  1. The military of the future will be smaller, but more agile.
  2. Post-Iraq and Afghanistan, the size of the Army and the Marine Corps – their “end-strengths” – will be reduced.
  3. The military will rely less on stationing troops at forward bases – there will be a draw down of U.S. forces in Europe, for example.
  4. The military will continue to shift its focus towards the Asia Pacific region, in part in response to China’s growing economic and military power, while maintaining a robust presence in the Middle East.

On Jan. 26 Secretary Panetta and Gen. Dempsey released some details of the upcoming fiscal year 2013 budget request. It includes provisions to remove two Army brigades from Europe and reduce overall Army and Marine Corps end-strengths by roughly 100,000. Nonetheless, the Marine Corps and the Army will still be larger than they were prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

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