Moving from Squabbling to Debate: the Opportunity of the FY15 Budget Request
By: Ryan Crotty
On March 4, President Obama will submit his budget request for fiscal year 2015 to Congress. For the first time since 2010, significant policy issues such as military compensation, the active/reserve component mix, and ground forces sizing have a chance to be the focus of the debate rather than the arcane budgetary issues, like the debt ceiling, sequestration, furloughs, and government shutdown that have dominated the discussion for the last three years.
And this is a crucial time to have these policy debates. Since the enactment of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), defense analysts have focused on this FY15 budget and associated Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) as the best hope for building a roadmap to stability. As the budget request to Congress is concurrent with the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and nearly so with the National Security Strategy, it presents a singular opportunity to articulate an alignment of strategy and resources centered on an executable defense program for manpower, force structure, equipment, and costs for the next five years.
Unfortunately, the fragile peace brokered in last December’s budget agreement can still be derailed. The requests coming out of both the House Armed Services Committee and the administration for unfunded priorities lists from the services and the combatant commanders are one likely source of such derailment. And while all the signs point to a FY15 request that complies with the Bipartisan Budget Act, there are no guarantees that the rest of the FYDP (2016–2019) will comply with the current law baseline set by the BCA. Without an FYDP consistent with these levels, the plans for strategy and resources will again be misaligned, obfuscating the real trade-offs that need to be addressed in the defense budget and setting up for another three years of uncertain and unpredictable defense plans.