For the Defense Department, hammering out the details of the 2012 budget may be easier than figuring out what do for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
Defense spending (and all other kinds as well) has limped on under the authority of an unfortunate series of continuing resolutions. The current one extends until March 4.
And Defense officials, who say the stopgap spending measures are far from ideal in funding the department, are not happy about it.
According to a Federal News Radio report, the continuing difficulties with the continuing resolution — spending capped at 2010 levels, which results in a cut of $23 billion — could be a crisis for DoD.
“The damage done across our military from that reduction would be magnified as it comes halfway through the fiscal year,” said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a news conference discussing the Obama administrations 2012 defense budget requests.
“I’m concerned that the debate over the defense budget in recent days and weeks is becoming increasingly distant from strategic and operational reality — distant, in other words, from the real world,” he said. “In fact, suggestions to cut defense by this or that large number have largely become exercises in simple math, divorced from serious considerations of capabilities, risk, and the level of resources needed to protect this country’s security and vital interests around the world.”
The secretary said the absolute bottom-line number with which the Pentagon could “get by” on is $540 billion.
Meanwhile, Defense Comptroller Robert Hale said the specter of a fiscal-year-long CR, which he told reporters was “a bad way to budget,” is the most serious budget situation he has seen in his 30 years of federal experience.
Because of the budget shortfalls, Hale characterized the choices DoD would have to make as akin to asking “which child do you kill”?