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Eyes on the Budget: Anticipating the February 1 Documents January 29, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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by Gordon Adams

A significant set of national security documents will appear next week. The Administration will deliver its FY 2011 budget request to the Congress on Monday, February 1.  At the same time, the Defense Department will unveil its new Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) setting out the guidelines for DOD’s planning and budgeting for the next four years.1 The President announced a freeze on discretionary spending, but this will not apply to “security spending,” which includes DOD, International Affairs, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.

What to Look For

International Affairs Budgets

Look for significant growth in overall International Affairs (Function 150) funding, perhaps as much as 11 percent over last year’s final appropriation of $50.9 billion.

But viewer beware: that 11 percent growth is likely to include substantial funding for Iraq (police training may transfer from DOD to State), Afghanistan (a larger foreign assistance package), and Pakistan (the same).  And the FY 2010 books are not closed, as the budget is also likely to include a request for additional funding for Afghanistan and Pakistan, perhaps as much as $3 to $5 billion in additional funding.

Baseline to baseline (setting Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq aside), the real growth in International Affairs funding is likely to be more in the neighborhood of 3 percent.

Unpacking that budget, though, look for very tight funding levels for State Department operations – the costs of people, infrastructure, and support.2 With more funding coming in for foreign assistance programs but flat funding for people and support, State operations could be straining.  This is already a problem at State and USAID.3

On the other hand, expect continued growth in funds for USAID personnel, on the path to rebuilding the assistance agency’s capacities.

In other foreign assistance program areas, look for a major food aid initiative, relatively flat funding for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and a diversification of global health programs beyond the current focus on HIV/AIDS and malaria.  The administration will argue it is still on track to double foreign assistance by FY 2015.

In security assistance programs: look for growing State Department funding for security assistance programs in Pakistan and police training in Iraq.  On the other hand, do not expect a new State Department initiative to create a global security assistance program to replace what DOD has been doing for the past few years (the so-called Section 1206 program).  Any decision to expand State’s authority over security assistance has been deferred for at least a year.

In post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction, look for a new fund (created by the Congress in FY 2010) with $100 million in the budget to actually operate State’s capacity for post-conflict operations.  This would replace the funds that DOD has been transferring to State in recent years (the so-called Section 1207 funding at DOD).

Defense Budgets

Look for a DOD budget request at around $708 billion, an increase of 7 percent over last year’s appropriated level of $661.4 billion.

Also expect a supplemental budget request for FY 2010 war operations, in the neighborhood of $30 to $35 billion, which, added to already appropriated funds, will bring down the overall growth seen in the FY 2011 request.

Expect very few major program reductions, in contrast to the decisions Secretary Gates announced last April in the FY 2010 budget.  Once again, however, there is likely to be an effort to end production of the C-17, a goal regularly overridden by the Congress.

Look for a new $4 billion funding stream for long-range strike programs, consistent with what is expected to be a QDDR recommendation to increase such programs as a way of dealing with the risk that US basing overseas may decline in the future.

Anticipate a healthy request for shipbuilding programs, including keeping carrier construction on a five-year cycle.

In security assistance, DOD’s authority to fund and operate its own global security assistance (Section 1206) has one more year to run and DOD will seek to boost its funding to $500 million next year (up from the $350 million Congress provided this year).

Quadrennial Defense Review4

The two major regional contingencies algorithm, which has influenced force planning since the end of the Cold War, has been marginalized in this version of the QDR.  A more complex set of contingencies, ranging very broadly from war fighting and deterrence to counter-insurgency, counter-terror, and stability operations, has taken its place, but the impact on actual force sizing is not clear in the QDR.

Look for a major effort to justify an expansion of DOD’s role in counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations, consistent with Secretary Gates’ persistent pressure to focus the Pentagon on these requirements and near-term conflicts. This may include an expansion of the role for the Civil Affairs units of the military services and of the Special Forces into such areas as rule of law, economic stability, public health, infrastructure, and information.

At the same time, look for extensive language justifying a large DOD role in stability operations, post-conflict programs for governance and reconstruction, and conflict prevention.  This is consistent with the proposal Secretary Gates made in December 2009 to expand DOD funding for these activities.  The final QDR may also observe that DOD must expand these missions, given the inability, in the near term, of the civilian foreign policy agencies to provide significant funding and personnel for these missions.

In the security assistance arena, look for a major assertion of direct DOD responsibility for training and equipping foreign security forces (called the “security sector”) on a global basis, consistent with the budget request forecast above. This might include the creation of new DOD “Security Force Assistance” teams and missions.  It might also include an expanded DOD program to advise ministries of defense in other countries. The December 3 QDR draft also proposed that DOD have joint authority with State over State’s own security assistance accounts, though that language may have disappeared in the final version.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1Two other key documents may appear later: the White House National Security Strategy, and the interim report of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.

2At the January 26 town hall, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said:  “I think you know that we’re facing very tough budgetary times. It’s anticipated that tomorrow the President will announce in the State of the Union a request for a three-year freeze on domestic spending. Thus far, he’s exempted foreign aid, but not State operations.”

3 See the Stimson Center/American Academy of Diplomacy report A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future, which focuses on the staffing needs and problems of State and USAID.

4 An early draft of the QDR, dated December 3, 2009, was made available by Inside the Pentagon.

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