The Department of Defense will request a base operating budget of $525 billion for fiscal year 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Thursday. The request includes an additional $88 billion for operations in Afghanistan that combined is about $33 billion less than the Pentagon is spending this year.
“We believe this is a balanced and complete package,” Panetta said. “Our approach was to use this as an opportunity to maintain the strongest military in the world, to not hollow out the force.”
Panetta said the Pentagon’s base budget will grow to $567 billion in 2017. At that point, the cumulative budgets over five years would be $259 billion less than had been planned before the administration struck a deficit-cutting deal with Congress last summer that requires projected defense spending to be reduced by $487 billion over the next decade.
The defense spending plan is scheduled to be submitted to Congress as part of the administration’s full 2013 budget on February 13.
Part of that Panetta said is finding ways to better use information technology to make the department more efficient, along with increasing the department’s cybersecurity capabilities.
Among the details Panetta discussed:
- The Army would shrink by 80,000 soldiers, from 570,000 today to 490,000 by 2017 and the Marine Corps would drop from today’s 202,000 to 182,000.
- The Air Force would retire some older planes including about two dozen C-5A cargo aircraft and 65 of its oldest C-130 cargo planes.
- The Navy would keep a fleet of 11 aircraft carriers but retire seven cruisers earlier than planned. It also would delay purchase of some other ships, including a new Virginia-class submarine.
- Purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, to be fielded by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, would be slowed.
- Current plans for building a new generation of submarines that carry long-range nuclear missiles would be delayed by two years. The current fleet of nuclear-capable bombers and land-based nuclear missiles would be left unchanged.
- Military pay raises will remain on track until 2015, when the pace of increase will be slowed by an undetermined amount.
Among other cost-saving measures, Panetta said President Obama will ask Congress to initiate the Base Realignment and Closure process, a mechanism that is supposed to take politics out of the often-sensitive issue of base closures.
“Capability is more important than size,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said. “Yes, the strategy and budget reduce force size—we get leaner. But, this budget does not lead to a military in decline.”