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The Obama Administration's FY 2012 Defense Budget

While most of the

attention devoted to the Obama administration’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2012 has focused on its apparent failure to tackle the pressing problems of Social Security and Medicare, the administration’s specific request for the FY 2012 Defense budget has been met with critiques as well.  The budget request proposes $553B in “core Pentagon funding” and $117.8B to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Pentagon contends that, in sum, the budget would produce a net of $78B in savings.  Criticism of the budget has come in diverse forms: while new House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) has publicly expressed his “significant concerns” regarding what he believes to be the budget’s inappropriately small increase over FY 2011 funding levels, others see the over $700B budget request as being too large and out of touch with national anti-defecit sentiments.  It will be interesting to see how these conflicting impulses come to a head as the House and Senate pass their Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills this summer.

One embattled program, however, has already met its fate: the Joint Strike Fighter Alternate Engine.  At roughly $382B, the Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive Defense program in U.S. history, and the Alternate Engine program was conceived as a way to allow General Electric to compete with Pratt & Whitney in developing the engine for the aircraft.  Its critics, however, say that the engine is unnecessary, as Pratt & Whitney’s existing engine is sufficient.  Last year, the program was funded despite the administration’s veto threat, and this year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has continually voiced his opposition to the program.  The House abruptly voted to cancel the program last week, in a move that has been characterized as a “win” for both the administration and GOP deficit hawks.  It will likely be a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation in a budget deliberation process that is sure to be one of the more contentious in recent memory.



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