Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Military Ordered To Find $60 Billion in Savings Over Next Five Years

July 28, 2009 – 2:01 p.m.

The military will need to come up with $60 billion in savings over the next five years to pay for new priorities to be set by the Defense secretary, a top Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The order from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is based on an assumption that there will be no real growth in defense budgets over the next five years, a radical departure for a department whose budgets have increased more than 80 percent since 2001.

Pentagon officials say new spending priorities will be informed by an ongoing review of the nation’s military posture, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review. The review is a deep analysis of the overall structure of the military, meant to guide overall planning and program decisions.

One of the driving factors so far in the evaluation is the prospect that defense budgets largely will be static in fiscal 2011 through fiscal 2015, said David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force transformation and resources.

The military services must “find offsets” to make room for the new capabilities that Gates wants to add or expand, he said. “They’re now busily looking for those billpayers,” said Ochmanek. “That’s how the zero growth assumption manifests itself.”

In late August, the military services will submit their budgets to the Pentagon leadership, which will use those figures to negotiate with the White House Office of Management and Budget, he said. Pentagon planners hold out hope that more money could be forthcoming.

The $60 billion in offsets will be directed toward research and procurement accounts, Ochmanek said.

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