Pentagon Wins in Budget Deal with Higher Defense Spending Caps


The White House and Congress late Monday agreed to a budget deal that would provide financial relief to the Defense Department over two years by increasing defense spending caps.

The agreement calls for raising the national debt ceiling until March 2017, as well as automatic, across-the-board spending caps set forth by previous deficit-reduction legislation.

The deal would boost the spending restrictions on the base defense budget by $25 billion to $548 billion in fiscal 2016 and by $15 billion to $551 billion in fiscal 2017, according to a summary of the legislation. In addition, it would provide some $59 billion for the war budget in each of the next two fiscal years, resulting in an overall defense budget of $607 billion and $610 billion, respectively.

“They should be popping champagne at the Pentagon with this budget deal, which is better to defense than Ryan-Murray & close to Prez request,” tweeted Mackenzie Eaglen, a national-security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Eaglen was referring in part to the 2013 deal brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, to lift some of the defense spending restrictions of the 2011 Budget Control Act. She was also referring to the fact that the deal more closely resembles President Obama’s defense budget request than what Republicans recently approved.  

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow and defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, agreed. “Proposed deal is closer to President’s request than Republican budget, especially on non-defense side,” he wrote on Twitter.

Harrison also pointed out that the deal amounts to about $5 billion less than recent legislation that Republicans approved and President Obama vetoed last week.

In a letter to lawmakers, Obama said he rejected the $612 billion measure in part because it fails to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and seeks to skirt federal spending caps by including $38 billion for base-budget activities into the war budget -- known in military parlance as overseas contingency operations, or OCO -- which is exempt from the spending restrictions.

The bill “fails to authorize funding for our national defense in a fiscally responsible manner,” he wrote. “It underfunds our military in the base budget, and instead relies on an irresponsible budget gimmick that has been criticized by members of both parties ... The decision reflected in this bill to circumvent rather than reverse sequestration further harms our national security.”

Ryan, who is expected to be elected the next speaker of the House, criticized the current leaders of the House, Senate and White House -- including outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio -- for privately negotiating the deal, which is expected to Congress this week.

Hal Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, praised the bipartisan agreement, which would allow for the overhauling of the military retirement system and other personnel changes.

"This deal is fiscally responsible, and I commend our leaders for their fruitful work toward this end," he said in a statement. "The Appropriations Committee stands at the ready to implement the details of the deal."

Rogers added, "I look forward to getting to work immediately with our counterparts in the Senate to ensure the Appropriations process is complete ahead of the December 11 deadline, so that we can avoid any more delays or ‘shutdown showdowns' that have caused unnecessary damage to important federal programs -- including our national defense."

--Brendan McGarry can be reached at

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