As the Defense Department works on its fiscal year 2020 (FY’20) budget request throughout the rest of this calendar year, it is doing so with the goal of meeting President Trump’s request to cut billions across agency budgets, the Pentagon’s number-two official said Oct. 26.
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters that DoD is working on two budgets simultaneously that will reflect an originally desired $733 billion topline budget for national security that includes all of the department’s critical priorities, and a $700 billion that lines up with the White House’s request.
Pentagon leadership will be able to decide which efforts to cut or to defer to the future, then, “We will go back to the president and give him a $700 billion budget, and then everybody gets to decide how to work with that,” he said Friday at the annual Military Reporters and Editors (MRE) conference in Arlington, Virginia.
The proposed budget number reflects a 2.2 percent cut below the FY ’19 approved funding level of $716 billion, and a 4.5 percent cut below the $733 billion for FY ’20 projected in the last budget request. Shanahan noted that the $700 billion budget number is “not just a one-year drop down. It’s phased. It’s a drop and then held constant over the” future years defense plan, or FYDP.
Trump announced the proposed cuts – 5 percent from every agency – in a meeting with his cabinet leaders Oct. 17, as agencies were already in the middle of detailing their budget requests for the next fiscal year. He noted at the time that he pushed for a larger defense budget over the past two cycles because he “had to do something with the military,” which was “falling apart.”
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Leader Mick Mulvaney – a longtime GOP budget hawk who served as congressman for South Carolina’s 5th district from 2011 to 2017 – directly ordered the Pentagon to move forward with this goal, Shanahan said. “He called me on the phone and said, ‘Here’s the number, let’s get to work on it,’” he added.
Lawmakers and analysts have expected the Defense Department to receive a smaller budget beginning in FY ‘20, as the two-year hold on the 2011 Budget Control Act’s spending level caps is set to expire (Defense Daily, Oct. 18). The Pentagon has previously expressed a need to increase the yearly budget by between 2 and 5 percent to fulfill critical modernization efforts.
Shanahan declined to share which acquisition or upgrade efforts could be at risk in this reduced budget request, but said in response to a separate question that his priorities remain F-35 Joint Strike Fighter sustainment, the newly stood-up Army Futures Command and digital modernization initiatives. He added that the new budget option is being developed with the Space Force efforts in mind.