The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2012 budget likely won’t be hashed out until late November at the earliest, as the House is poised to vote on two short-term government funding measures that would cut the defense budget below current levels for nearly seven weeks.
The House and Senate had been at odds over a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would temporarily cover the Pentagon and most federal agencies in the beginning of FY ’12, which starts Saturday, until Nov. 18 with funding that is 1.4 percent below FY ’11 levels.
The Senate on Monday night passed a revised CR–with changes made to controversial provisions related to disaster funding and energy programs–that the House is expected to pass next week after members return from this week’s congressional recess.
The Senate also passed on Monday, via a voice vote, legislation that keeps the federal government running through Oct. 4, which the House is expected to pass in a pro-forma session this Thursday. With that very-short-term funding in place, the chamber is then expected to pass on Oct. 4 the CR that runs until Nov. 18.
All of this maneuvering would leave the Pentagon until the fourth week of November with a base defense budget that is 1.4 percent, or $7.4 billion, below the FY ’11 level of $532 billion. That cut is intended to meet spending caps set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 that President Barack Obama signed on Aug. 2.
When a CR is in place, the Pentagon cannot start new programs or enter into new contracts.
War funding in the CR would be set at $118 billion, which is the amount in the House-passed FY ’12 defense appropriations bill and less than the $157 billion in FY ’11 war funding.
The Senate has not yet debated the FY ’12 defense authorization and appropriations bills, versions of which have been approved by both the House and Senate committees.
The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) is the only panel to write a defense budget since the approval of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which sets a cap for broader security spending in FY ’12 of $684 billion. The Pentagon said the new law will trigger $450 billion in defense cuts over the next decade, though more long-term military spending reductions are likely to be made later this year.
The SAC on Sept. 15 approved a FY ’12 defense appropriations bill that would cut $26 billion from the Pentagon’s $513 billion base budget request, granting it the same funding as in FY ’11.
The House passed a defense appropriations bill in July, back before the deficit-cutting law was signed, that the House Appropriations Committee said would trim the Pentagon’s FY ’12 proposal by $9 billion. The chamber approved a policy-setting defense authorization bill in May that would not cut the official request. The Senate Armed Services Committee also has crafted a FY ’12 defense authorization bill in June that it said would make a $5.9 billion reduction to the Pentagon’s proposal, though panel leaders have acknowledged that level of funding will need to be cut more.