‘DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE’
The 2014 budget proposal the Pentagon sent to the White House last month did not include the $50 billion in automatic cuts scheduled for that year and the Defense Department has not been asked for revised figures, officials said.
The White House posted a plan on its website this week that seeks to avert the automatic cuts through budget cuts and revenue increases. The White House plan would replace the $500 billion of defense cuts over the next decade with a $100 billion cut, to be implemented over five years beginning in 2019.
The defense analysts expressed skepticism about the plan, which likely faces stiff resistance from Republicans who have vowed to oppose more tax increases.
“That’s a scenario that doesn’t make any sense at all except in la-la land because those aren’t real cuts,” said Gordon Adams, an analyst with the Stimson Center who worked on defense budgets while at the White House during the Clinton presidency.
Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the White House and Defense Department approach to the budget cut was to “deny it, put it off, assume it’s going to go away at some point.”
“The reality is they need to start planning for this staying in effect, and even if they start right now it’s a little too late,” he said, noting the department would have to begin laying off personnel next year when more cuts go into effect.
Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, urged the Pentagon to tackle the tough issues of compensation, overhead and base closures, some of the thorniest issues politically but factors that have been driving up defense costs for years.
Punaro said the cost of the Defense Department’s “massive and inefficient overhead,” at $218 billion a year, was greater than the economy of the entire state of Israel.