As we await the release of the President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2019, word is trickling out that Pentagon spending will see a significant increase. The national security spending request overall (which includes spending outside the five walls of the Pentagon like nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy) is rumored to be more than $715 billion.
We’ll let that sit there for a moment while everyone contemplates just exactly how much money that is. That’s a lotta dough.
The devil’s in the details, as they say. We’ll point out that the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) is still the law of the land. And the FY19 cap on defense spending in the BCA is $562 billion. Talks are underway (so we hear) to amend the caps (again) to loosen the fiscal belt several notches on both FY18 and FY19 spending. There will also be some budget sleight of hand most likely in the form of stuffing cash in the off-budget, uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, money that supposedly only goes toward warfighting. In fact, it is an account that in recent years has become a refuge for spending that should be in the Pentagon base budget and subject to the caps.
So, we’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see the actual budget request and dig into the details.
But until then, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) rolled out some interesting numbers to ponder. In a presentation entitled, “Prospects for DoD’s Budget Over the Next Decade” the CBO puts cost estimates against the Trump administration’s goals for Pentagon programs. And the outlook isn’t good for people who worry about the deficit. CBO estimates the Pentagon programs articulated by this administration will increase Pentagon spending by $680 billion over the next ten years. That’s just the delta – an annual increase the size of the entire Department of Education budget in Fiscal Year 2017.
And, they further project that the percentage of total federal spending devoted to net interest (servicing the debt) will rise to 21% by 2047. That’s triple the current 7% of total federal spending that is currently devoted to net interest.
No matter where you come down on the importance of Pentagon spending, those are numbers to give one pause and force a reexamination of spending priorities.