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Keys to the DOD Supplemental March 9, 2009

Posted by Stephen Abott in Analysis.
Tags: , , , ,
Source: DOD


In the coming weeks, President Obama will release the details of his DOD supplemental budget. Since 2001, supplemental budgets have grown as a part of the defense budget and now constitute more than 28% of DOD spending. This growing amount of “emergency” spending has not been folded into the normal Pentagon budget process, as in other recent US conflicts, and has become a repository for hidden DOD budget increases. This is convenient for those who want to increase spending because supplemental budgets are not as closely monitored and scrubbed by Congress due to their time-sensitive nature.  President Obama has promised to change this.

What are some items to look for in the upcoming budget to see if the administration is breaking from the past?

  • Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) – The Pentagon has been funding a significant portion of the transition of Army and Marine units into more mobile and interchangeable BCTs. This conversion of large numbers of ground troops, while important to US force structure in the post-Cold War world, was planned before OIF and is not directly connected to current operations in CENTCOM. If this item is in the supplemental, then Obama may be hedging closer to Bush administration budget practices.
  • Aircraft Procurement – This item has two components :                    1) Supplementals have been used to replace MH-53 helicopters and F-16 combat jets lost in combat operations with high-priced CV-22 Ospreys and F-35s, respectively. By using the supplemental to replace lost equipment with more expensive “upgraded” systems, the DOD has been going outside of the normal budget process to acquire new equipment. Both of the above systems, along with many others, could be replaced with similar systems (a less expensive helicopter and the most recent version of the F-16, respectively) at a fraction of the cost. The buying of “wish list” systems in the emergency supplemental only further degrades the efficacy of the normal budget process – look for the administration to eliminate such purchases.                                          2) The budget should not include equipment “stressed” by the war effort but only those directly lost in combat operations. Decisions to replace equipment “stressed” by current operations should be made within the regular budget process to determine the best ways to limit or repair damage to overworked platforms.
  • Health Care – Supplemental budgets have funded long-term care to US casualties from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Such care should be provided in the top line DOD or VA budget. Funding for war operations should only contain requests for emergency care related to combat in the AO (Area of Operations). This is because long-term funding requirements for those who gave so much for their country should be part of regular departmental budgets as these costs will be with the nation for many years.

By tracking the above budget items, one can quickly see if the President’s upcoming supplemental budget is truly focusing on current war-related costs.

Stay tuned to this blog and The Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program in the coming weeks for news and analysis on the DOD budget process.



1. Raja Gundu - March 11, 2009

Thank you for the excellent insights, Steve.
Poring money over “wish list” programs, under whatever guise, constitutes pork. And we hope this administration does better than that.

2. The Week Ahead « Budget Insight - March 23, 2009

[…] Recent Stimson Center analysis of the upcoming supplemental bill are here,  here, and here. […]

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