With the passage of the debt deal, one federal department didn't so much get slashed as slowed. It's responsible for a lot of the debt in the first place, but then again two wars are going on. You guessed it — the Pentagon actually came out flusher than any department in today's debt deal.
Rather than cutting $400 billion in defense spending through 2023, as President Barack Obama had proposed in April, the current proposal trims $350 billion through 2024, effectively giving the Pentagon $50 billion more than it had been expecting over the next decade, McClatchy reported today.
Meanwhile, the debt deal drastically reduces domestic discretionary spending, categories such as transportation and education, which is 12 percent of the federal budget, according to the Daily Beast. Defense spending accounts for close to 24 percent.
After weeks of debate between, it's hard to know if anything or anyone could substantially slash defense spending. "Military spending has more or less survived the drawdown of two wars and a domestic economic crisis. Even now, Congress can't agree on how much to cut defense spending while maintaining U.S. military strength," McClatchy reported.
"In fact, that $553 billion is only part of what the Pentagon spends. America’s two major wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are funded by a line item called the “Overseas Contingency Operations,” which adds $118 billion to Pentagon coffers for 2012. Ironically, that’s roughly the size of Iraq’s entire economy ($118 billion in 2010). It dwarfs Afghanistan’s ($30 billion)."
The Pentagon is not out of the woods on budget cuts, with a six person bipartisan commission to make further deep slashes to programs. But the commission will face still resistance from conservative like Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who said, "I think the most important thing is to get a strong defense person on the (bipartisan) committee," McClatchy reported.
Supporters of the debt deal, including top defense officials, said it was too risky to make major defense cuts without examining the national security strategy. They noted that the reductions still represent the sharpest baseline defense budget cuts since the 1990s.
However, the United States spent $580 billion a year on defense at the height of the Cold War. In the 2011 fiscal year, the Pentagon's baseline budget is $549 billion, with another $159 billion allotted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for a total of $708 billion, McClatchy reported.