Battleland

Warning: Budget Day

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Monday is Budget Day. This is not a drill: head for a soundproof, locked, windowless, Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility to avoid the howls and screams as the Pentagon releases its proposed 2013 spending plan. Here’s the hardware slice already giving some Crystal City defense-contractor types the vapors.

But we already know the key facts:

1. The Defense Department wants $525 billion in its base, non-war budget, plus $88 billion for Afghanistan and assorted other “overseas contingency operations” – formerly known as “wars,” or Operations Other Than War (pronounced oot-wah by the cognoscenti [emphasis on the “cog” part of that word]). That’s down from the $531 billion and $115 billion in those accounts for this year.

2. That $525 billion request is $46 billion less than the $571 billion the Pentagon said last year it would be asking this year for next year (got it?). That’s part of the $259 billion in cuts it must make over the next five years to comply with last year’s incredibly mal-named Budget Control Act.

3. The budget drill this year is less connected to reality than ever – outside analysts predict that the axe will cut far deeper next January under the already-written-into-law sequestration process. That would bring military spending all the way back to 2007’s level. It also would likely require Pentagon budget weenies to scrap the 2013 plans they’re proposing today and start over.

Basically, what that final point suggests is that Monday’s budget rollout – and all the budget testimony to come this week from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — is the military equivalent of building a house of cards on the wing on an F-22 in supercruise. Something to keep in mind amid the howls that, hopefully, you won’t be able to hear deep inside your SCIF.

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