After a process that could generously be described as touch-and-go, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion dollar omnibus and continuing resolution spending package—the “cromnibus”—on Tuesday evening. It obligates $554 billion dollars for defense spending, which includes $490 billion for the base Pentagon budget and another $64 billion to the Overseas Contingency Fund (OCO). As Military Times reports, this marks an $18 billion dollar decrease from FY14—although the entirety of that reduction comes from a reduced OCO concurrent with the drawdown in Afghanistan. This top-line figure lines up almost exactly with President Obama’s original March request.
However, Congress has made considerable changes to the way this money is spent. According to analysis by Defense News, 10 percent of the FY15 defense appropriations budget—and 30 percent of all line items—were changed in the logrolling process. Likewise, significant proposed reforms across every section of the DoD budget have been altered or slashed. The list of changes is considerable (you can read a Senate Armed Services Committee summary here or even review the full bill here). Some of the most important changes you should be aware of:
All services encounter challenges retiring their platforms—but none more than the Air Force. Congress has forbidden retirement plans for the original MQ-1 Predator; the 50-year-old U-2 spy plane; and the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. It comes down hardest on plans to mothball the A-10 Warthog (which I’ve written about before in great detail). It authorizes the transfer of 36 A-10s from “primary” to “back-up” aircraft inventory, which comes with reduced flying hours; which means savings will be minimal.
Congress also funds other stuff that no one asked for. The biggest ticket items include $120 million more for M-1 Abrams tanks, despite Army protestations (for at least the third straight year) that no additional units are needed. Little surprise—according to General Dynamics, there are more than 560 Abrams subcontractors spread across the country. Likewise, the U.S. Navy was given $850 million to refuel and overhaul the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, despite its intent to wait until the FY16 budget cycle.