White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recently raised hopes of potentially deep defense spending cuts. However, according to new budget estimates released today, those hopes appear to be dashed, at least for now. For fiscal year 2010, the Obama administration is matching the 8% projected defense spending increase proposed by the Bush administration:
The Obama administration has given the Pentagon a $527 billion limit, excluding war costs, for its fiscal 2010 defense budget, an official with the White House's Office of Management and Budget said Monday.
If enacted, that would be an 8 percent increase from the $487.7 billion allocated for fiscal 2009, and it would match what the Bush administration estimated last year for the Pentagon in fiscal 2010.
You will hear reports, probably leaked by anonymous sources to Fox News, that the $527 billion Obama is allocating for the Department of Defense is actually a spending cut. This is, of course, untrue.
Last fall, with Barack Obama talking about withdrawing from Iraq and John McCain talking about cutting the defense budget, the DoD launched a pre-emptive campaign to try and maintain their death grip on the federal budget. They did this by proposing a $450 billion increase in defense spending over five years, an 20% increase in defense spending that would effectively make the supplemental spending on Iraq and Afghanistan permanent parts of the budget. Now, because they are not being given these massive 20% increases, they are portraying the 8% increase as a spending cut. Propaganda, as per usual.
While it is disappointing that the Obama administration is not looking to cut the defense budget during its first year in office, generally speaking this does not seem like a year when spending of any sort is being cut. Given that 2009 spending levels will not be maintained indefinitely, especially the bailout portions of current spending, that might change in the future. Further, as we begin withdrawal from Iraq in 2009-2010, money can be saved on the supplemental bills not included in the defense budget.
Still, for now, the defense budget remains as large as it ever was, even under President Obama.