A reported plan from House Republican leadership to cap fiscal year 2024 discretionary spending at FY ‘22 levels would lead to a nearly $100 billion topline reduction from the Pentagon’s proposed budget and result in “extremely disruptive” program cuts, according to the department’s chief financial officer.

Mike McCord, the Pentagon comptroller, urged Congress to avoid such a spending proposal that he said would result in large spending cuts to programs ranging from Navy shipbuilding to nuclear modernization efforts.

Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

McCord said such cuts would be “extremely disruptive and inefficient,” and that modernization programs would “bear the brunt of the cuts,” with DoD in this potential situation “protecting personnel and preventing current readiness from falling to dangerously low levels.”

This includes a $10 billion cut, relative to the FY ‘22 level, for the Navy’s shipbuilding request, according to McCord, who said the Pentagon would most likely have to eliminate build plans for a Virginia-class submarine and a DDG-51 destroyer.

McCord said the proposal could also force cuts of up to 40 percent for nuclear modernization efforts, particularly impacting the Sentinel strategic deterrent missile and B-21 bomber programs. 

Additional specific impacts cited in McCord’s letter include a nearly 50 percent reduction in the requested funds for space-based missile warning and ground-based midcourse missile defenses and slowing down the department’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative, such as delaying or reducing investments in capabilities like the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and SM-6 missile.

During the rollout of the Pentagon’s $842 billion FY ‘24 budget last week, McCord said he believes it’s “inevitable” the department will have a $1 trillion spending request in the coming years (Defense Daily, March 13).

“The department is concerned about both the magnitude and the potential method of implementing such reductions, which would have harmful and potentially devastating effects on our people, our mission and our national interests,” McCord wrote in a letter to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee. “Our budgets are carefully constructed to support [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin’s National Defense Strategy and to take care of our people. Those who would propose deep cuts to our budget have a responsibility to describe those goals in our strategy they wish to abandon or scale back in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, in the homeland or elsewhere.”

McCord’s letter was in response to a request from DeLauro seeking information from every federal agency on the potential impact if the reported spending proposal from House GOP leadership was enacted (Defense Daily, Jan. 20). 

“I have received responses to most of my letters to cabinet secretaries and senior leaders outlining the dangers posed to the American people if we cut federal spending back to the 2022 level, and the numbers could not be clearer,” DeLauro said in a statement on Monday. “The math is not there. These drastic cuts would put people at risk. I look forward to discussing these letters with agency leaders in the coming weeks during our committee hearings to help the American people and Congress understand the real cost to human lives these extreme cuts would have.”

House Republican leaders have previously downplayed the potential for billions of dollars in defense spending cuts as part of the reported plan detailed during a closed-door GOP Conference meeting to limit discretionary spending in FY ‘24 at FY ‘22 enacted levels (Defense Daily, Jan. 10).

“Finally, should, as some have suggested, the Defense Department be exempt from such reductions and the entire burden fall on the non-defense discretionary agencies, the cuts would be just as harmful, even if distributed differently,” McCord said in his letter.

McCord said that capping the Pentagon’s FY ‘24 topline at the FY ‘22 enacted of $742.3 billion would lead to a $73.7 cut relative to the department’s current FY ‘23 topline. 

However, when factoring for the department’s newly detailed $842 billion budget request for FY ‘24, McCord noted the impact “would be far greater” and lead to a 11.8 percent cut or a nearly $100 billion spending reduction.

“Because the president’s [FY ‘24] budget request does not propose steep reductions uninformed by strategy such as a nominal freeze at an arbitrary prior year funding level, the burden would be on the Congress to determine how to make such reductions. We would be concerned with almost any conceivable way cuts of this magnitude might be imposed, but the department would be especially concerned with an attempt to enforce these cuts through an across the board sequester mechanism similar to the process that accompanied the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those reductions damaged the readiness of our forces in ways that took years to recover from,” McCord wrote in his letter.