The Pentagon has issued a budget that hopes to sidestep mandatory sequestration cuts as part of a larger Obama administration spending reduction strategy.
The $526.6 billion budget, announced Wednesday at a press briefing at the Pentagon, is part of the larger budget proposal across government that would save $1.8 trillion over ten years.
However the request does not address the current sequestration cuts on the military, as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act – the legislative foundation of the cuts.
“We are living in a world of complete uncertainty. The flexibility is not there in the same way we need it to be there,” said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in a Wednesday Pentagon briefing to press.
“If these cuts persist the defense budget would be reduced by another $500 billion over the next decade.”
Instead, the Obama plan calls for $150 billion in defense cuts over ten years weighted toward the later years of the defense spending. In March, Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2013 $527.5 billion budget.
“The Fiscal Year 2014 defense budget does not reflect the full sequestration amount. It does impose less reduction and gives us more time,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Wednesday Pentagon briefing.
“However, uncertainty persists about what the top line will be for this and any future budget.”
Dempsey warned the Pentagon still does not have not clear view of the effects of the current sequestration cuts on readiness across the services.
“Recovery costs will compete with the cost of our future force,” Dempsey said.
“We need a predictable funding stream and full flexibility to keep the force in balance.”
In order to adjust to a reality that would include sequestration cuts, the Pentagon has tasked Under Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to evaluate budget options.
“I directed Ash Carter to undertake a strategic budget and management review,” Hagel said.
“This is a $600 billion enterprise. You can’t shift budget dynamics or planning in a month or two. We are planning for every eventuality.”
Pentagon comptroller Bob Hale said Wednesday if sequestration stands, it would cut $52 billion this year from the U.S. defense budget.
“We are flat-out stressed at the moment in the financial community,” Hale said.
Though military personnel funding is preserved, there are cuts in operations and maintenance accounts across all the services under the current sequestration plan.
The Pentagon is protecting operations on the Korean peninsula and forces in Afghanistan, Hale said.
Outside of the sequestration shortfall, the new budget places emphasis on cyber forces, the military shift to the western Pacific and the start of a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
The BRAC commission would meet in 2015 and base closures would begin in 2016, under the Pentagon plan.