Likely Change in FYDP Very Modest

Project on Defense Alternatives Budget Brief, 28 April 2011.

The Obama Administration to date has made three successive Pentagon budget requests: FY10, FY11, and FY12. Each has looked ten years into the future.

On 13 April, the President offered a new proposal and framework — a revision to achieve greater deficit reduction. It looks forward 12 years. How do all these compare?

In order to compare the President’s successive plans, we must stretch the earlier ones out to the new horizon set in his April 13 speech, which is 2023. Reviewing the budget requests shows that in each case the projections for the “out years” — the tail-end years — have been generated by the application of a simple inflator. We can adopt these inflators to stretch all the requests out to 2023. Of course, the result must be regarded as only an estimate of the administration’s intent.

The difference between the FY11 and FY12 plans for the 10-year period 2012-2021 is around $240 billion. Stretch it out two more years and the difference grows to about $400 billion. This shows that the differences among the plans (when measured in “then year” dollars) really begin to accumulate as we go further and further into the future.

Keeping in mind that Congress must consider and pass the budget year by year, any series of budget projections going out twelve years, spanning three Presidential terms and differing economic conditions, must be judged distinctly uncertain.

Below are the total budget figures (in “then year” dollars) for the President’s successive plans. Each plan is also weighed as a percentage of the earliest one (i.e. FY10):

    FY10 plan for 2012-2023: 7543 billion = 100%
    FY11 plan for 2012-2023: 7947 billion = 105%
    FY12 plan for 2012-2023: 7512 billion = 99%
    New (April 13) proposal for 2012-23: 7112 billion = 94%

The most consequential years for national policy are the next five: 2012-2016, which constitute the FYDP. The President’s successive requests for these years are more firm and we needn’t do any estimating to derive them. All the Administration budget requests have been explicit about these years. And reviewing the successive requests for 2012-2016 shows that the difference among them is not as substantial:

    FY10 plan for 2012-2016: 2878 billion = 100%
    FY11 plan for 2012-2016: 2995 billion = 104%
    FY12 plan for 2012-2016: 2919 billion = 101%

We don’t yet know what the President’s April 13 proposal will imply for the 2012-2016 period. It’s a fair bet, though, that he will want to reinstate his earlier request to DoD that $150 billion be “saved” in the near future and not just the $78 billion pledged earlier this year by Secretary Gates. That would produce the following:

    New plan for 2012-2016: 2845 billion = 99%

If this proves true, the rollback in planned spending for the five years that matter most will be modest, verging on insignificant.

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