What’s a few billion between friends? You can download the details below – more than 100 pages of them – but here are the bottom lines of the 2013 reprogramming requests the Pentagon has submitted to Congress:
For fiscal year 2013, the administration wants “reprogramming authority” to reshuffle an extraordinary $9.6 billion between accounts in the Defense Department budget. The pluses and minuses cancel out across DoD but, as expected, the Army comes out slightly ahead, netting about $870 million, at the expense of the Navy, which is down almost $745 million, and, to a much lesser degree, the Air Force, down $122. (Note that the Pentagon split these sums between a $9 billion main request and a $600 million request for the Military Intelligence Program, which includes everything from classified surveillance to building infrastructure on Guam).
For fiscal year 2014, the administration has requested $79.4 billion in supplemental funding for the war, aka Overseas Contingency Operations or OCO, over $9 billion below what budget weenies would call the “placeholder” value for OCO in the 2014 budget. As expected, the Army accounts for nearly half the request, $38.4 billion, almost all of that for operations and maintenance expenses related to Afghanistan.
There’s no earthshaking news here – these budgetary changes have been going through the works for a while – but there are some interesting and sometimes painful details.
It will cost US taxpayers almost $1.4 billion dollars (OK, $1,385,920) just to work around Pakistan’s shutdown of the main supply route into Afghanistan, the so-called PAKGLOC (Pakistan Ground Lines of Communications), which forced the US to ship supplies either via air or the long way round via the former Soviet Union at great expense. (An earlier report only caught about half this figure because it’s buried in two separate accounts: see pages 3 and 40). Other staggering supply bills included $234 million above forecasted needs just to keep troops and contractors in Afghanistan supplied with perishable food (p. 3). Added together, the unanticipated logistical costs for the war add to $6.4 billion (p. 2-3, 39-40) – and all that money came out of the Army, which handles overland logistics for all four services and which was hardest hit when war costs exceeded budget forecasts.
The Air Force also had $1.4 billion in unanticipated war costs, with the biggest single piece, $436.7 million, going for communications networks in and around Afghanistan (6, 40). But overall the burden fell most heavily, as it has since 9/11, on the biggest service. Just keeping more soldiers in Afghanistan than originally projected – over 50,000 on average throughout the year, as opposed to a planned figure just short of 41,000 – cost the Army another $1.4 billion (39).
Having grown more than any other service to handle the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Army is now shrinking the most. That entails a complex reshuffling of personnel funds. An accounting gimmick in the 2013 budget took 50,000 soldiers out of the Army’s base budget and funded them through the overseas contingency operations account. Now, in this latest reprogramming request, the Army is taking a $1.1 billion cut in OCO personnel funds but adding back $381 million (net) in the base budget (2, 10) , largely to reshape the shrinking force to include a larger proportion of mid-tier officers – an increase in overhead, yes, but also a bid to retain the accumulated experience of the past decade of war.
On the procurement side, the Army isn’t taking many hits: Army is giving up $140 million worth of AH-64 Apache helicopters as that program slows (pp. 11, 43) and $128 million from slowing the fielding of its WIN-T battle command network (14), despite contractors’ desperate appeals. (On the other hand, a good chunk of the additional funding for Afghanistan is for installing other kinds of communications networks).
The Navy and Marines got a modest amount, $134.8 million, to buy back ship maintenance and aircraft training hours that had been cut to accommodate the automatic cuts known as sequestration. (4). The Air Force also repeatedly invoked the threat of sequestration in its argument for why it couldn’t take particular expenses out of hide and therefore needed supplemental OCO funds. But otherwise these requests are largely silent on sequestration.
The Navy and Marine Corps bite comes mostly from reducing the size of the force – the Marines grew proportionately about as much as the Army and are also coming down – and from reduced operations costs after pulling most Marines out of Afghanistan (20). The Air Force likewise took over a billion dollars out of personnel: $970 million from the active-duty force (6) and $366 from the reserves and Guard (48). But especially if sequestration doesn’t magically go away, the military’s going to keep shrinking as far as the eye can see.
The one sort-of winner in all of this? Cyber Command, the military’s rapidly growing hacking and anti-hacking force, with $75 million added to the National Security Agency (NSA) cybersecurity workforce alone (pg. 3 of the MIP request). And there’s $72 million in the MIP request (pg. 2), plus another $3.5 million in the main request (pg. 6), to keep the F-35’s software efforts on track.