spending, an unprecedented move
party leaders argue is an end-run
around those budget caps.
Non-defense spending — and
even national security accounts that
fall outside the Pentagon’s purview
— do not have any equivalent to the
war accounts, which are not subject
to the mandatory spending limits.
Thus, the Defense Department is
the one federal agency that enjoys a
budgetary overflow valve in a time
of austere spending.
The additional war funding
essentially brings total defense
spending in line with the
Pentagon’s fiscal 2016 request,
which blew past the budget caps.
But even Pentagon leaders have
balked at the reliance on the OCO
accounts, standing by the White
House’s veto threat in the interest
of striking a more comprehensive
— and longer-term — budget deal.
The Pentagon, officials contend,
has been living year to year with a
tremendous amount of uncertainty
about the long-term budget outlook.
The law establishing the budget caps
dates back to 2011, but a series of
short-term deals have provided some
additional dollars, while also injected great uncertainty in the future.
Tapping OCO accounts, which
vary greatly in size and scope each
year, to pay for base-budget programs, which are projected in five-year intervals, adds to this uncertainty.
“I very much hope that a way
will be found to come together and
get beyond the gridlock that we
have and to give us a normal budget process that provides a stable
runway for the department,”
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter
told the Senate Armed Services
Committee July 7.
Carter, who is well regarded on
Capitol Hill for his budget acumen
and managerial knowledge of the
department, called the current
budget environment a “herky-
“It is difficult to have a multi-
year national defense strategy,
which we must have, with one-
year-at-a-time perspective,” he
said. “It’s difficult to run large pro-
grams — shipbuilding programs,
aircraft programs — efficiently in a
But as the budget standoff con-
tinues with no sign of a deal
between the two parties, questions
linger about what happens come
Oct. 1, when the sun rises on the
new fiscal year. With the 2013
government shutdown a not-so-
distant — and painful — political
memory for many lawmakers, a
stop-gap continuing resolution is
likely the best bet to keep govern-
ment operations running for at
least the first several months of fis-
Still, that just forestalls the battle over government spending in
general, and defense dollars in particular. In the meantime, the military will have no choice but to
weather the “herky-jerky” ride.
While the fate of the defense
spending bills remains uncertain,
their details — and differences —
are already determined.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill includes
$979 million for 12 additional F/A-
18E/F Super Hornets and $1.2 billion
for six more F- 35 Lightning II joint
strike fighters for the Marine Corps,
and four more F-35s for the Air
Force, than the Pentagon requested.
It also provides $18.2 billion for
Navy shipbuilding programs,
which is $1.6 billion above the
request. The funding pays for 10
new ships: two Virginia-class submarines, two DDG 51 Arleigh
Burke-class destroyers, three littoral combat ships, an LPD 17
amphibious transport dock ship,
one joint high-speed vessel and
one T-AO fleet replenishment oiler.
The Senate bill also provides
incremental funding for one
Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in
addition to the 10 DDG 51s in the
fiscal 2013-2017 multiyear pro-
The House bill, meanwhile,
would add $350 million for five
Super Hornets and $666 million
for seven EA-18G Growlers, which
are based on the same airframe.
The measure also includes an additional $1.1 billion to buy six more
F-35s for the Marine Corps and
two more F-35s for the Navy than
The House’s version of the bill
also includes $16.9 billion, which
is $255 million above the request,
to procure nine Navy ships, including two DDG 51 guided-missile
destroyers, and three littoral combat ships. The biggest shipbuilding
plus-up in the House’s bill is $635
million for an additional Afloat
Forward Staging Base.
Of Carrier Fleet
The Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers
(CVNs) is in constant demand and
faces increasing challenges in having the “bench strength to meet the
requirements of combatant commanders,” experts said during a
July 7 forum.
“Carrier demand has exceeded
supply for many years,” said
retired VADM Peter Daly, chief
executive officer of the U.S. Naval
Institute, speaking to an audience
at a Washington seminar sponsored by the Navy League’s
America’s Strength campaign. Also
speaking were retired ADM Mark
Fitzgerald, and Dr. Robert Farley of
the University of Kentucky’s
Patterson School of Diplomacy and
The Navy, obligated by law to
field a force of 11 CVNs, is authorized by Congress to operate only 10
carriers until the next CVN, Gerald
R. Ford, is commissioned in 2016.
Daly noted that the Navy has
been run hard for the last 15 years