One Last Time: Here’s the Real Reason the Pentagon is Facing $20 Billion in Extra Cuts Next Year


Why is the Pentagon facing an “extra” $20 billion in cuts under sequestration next year? Yesterday I said that it was due to a redefinition of “security” in the budget language between 2013 and 2014. Today, CAP’s Michael Linden tells me that although it’s possible this played a role, the real answer lies elsewhere. What follows is fairly number-heavy, and if you don’t want to read it, I don’t blame you. But I’ll try to keep it as simple as I can.

Here’s the main issue: it turns out that under the Budget Control Act, the baseline budget for domestic spending goes up between 2013 and 2014. But it stays flat for defense spending. In addition, the amount of the sequester goes up because (a) it’s for a full 12 months, and (b) the fiscal cliff deal reduced the 2013 sequester levels.

For 2014, the sequester amount is roughly $54 billion for both domestic and defense. However, about $17 billion of the domestic sequester is for mandatory spending (primarily in reduced Medicare reimbursements). Once that’s all netted out, here are the numbers for domestic discretionary spending:

As you can see, the net spending level in 2014 is the same as 2013 because the budget baseline went up enough to make up for the increased sequester. But here are the numbers for defense discretionary spending:

The net effect of all this is that defense spending has to decrease by $20 billion compared to last year, while domestic spending stays at the same level. This is a one-time effect, since the baselines for both domestic and defense spending rise slightly each year in 2015 and beyond.

So that’s the story. If you’re sorry you asked, join the club.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate