Though the Pentagon will be late in submitting a budget this year, the process of crafting the spending plan received a nudge last week.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued so-called passback guidance to the Department of Defense on Jan. 29, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins.
“The next step is to continue working with OMB to produce the FY '14 President's Budget,” she said over e-mail.
The passback is the OMB’s revised version of the budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 that the Pentagon submitted to it last fall. In past years, the White House budget office issued passbacks to the Pentagon and other federal agencies the week after Thanksgiving. That kicked off a process intended to lead up to an unveiling of the administration’s budget for the federal government the first week of February.
Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters in the beginning of January that the budget would not be submitted to Congress by that typical due date, which is this week.
Some observers now predict the Pentagon’s budget could emerge in March. Yet there are many fiscal unknowns about that month.
The Pentagon current budget, for FY ’13, is funded through a simple “continuing resolution” (CR) that expires March 27. Defense appropriators in Congress said in the last two weeks they don’t know if they’ll be able to pass a full-blown FY ’13 defense appropriations bill to fund the Pentagon after the CR expires, as many of them want to do. Budget-writers in Congress including House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman C.W. “Bill” Young (R-Fla.) said they fear congressional leaders will simply extend the CR until FY ’13 ends on Sept. 30.
Also, the “sequestration” cuts--that would tap $500 billion from planned defense spending over the next decade--are slated to start March 1.
Senate Democrats will receive a “presentation” on a plan to avert sequestration during a retreat they have planned for this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last week. He wants to replace the sequestration cuts “in short increments” of several months at a time by offering alternative government savings, he said. His proposal, though, may not go far because he said he wants it to include spending cuts as well as higher taxes on wealthy Americans.
Other senators said they are crafting plans to help avert sequestration, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).
Still, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have been predicting Democrats and Republicans will not be able to agree on an alternate deficit-cutting plan to replace sequestration before March 1.
March will also be a busy time for the House and Senate budget committees, the leaders of which have said they will craft budget resolutions for FY ’14. The Democratic-led Senate has not passed such non-binding budget blueprint for four years.
Another fiscal quandary, regarding whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, has been pushed off of Congress’ agenda for now. The Senate passed a bill last Thursday, which cleared the House the previous week, that temporarily suspends the debt limit until May 19. The legislation, which President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law, calls for withholding lawmakers’ pay if their chamber of Congress--the House or Senate--does not pass a budget resolution by April 15.