Portraying a Defense Budget Increase as a Cut

February 02, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Josh Rogin of Congressional Quarterly does a great job fleshing out some of the budget-backstory between the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget that I alluded to in this post.

Basically, OMB told the Pentagon late last week that it wasn’t going to accept the fiscal 2010 budget request, written during the final hours of the Bush administration, as it came in a bloated $60 billion over the previous’ year’s tab. OMB — whose defense-spending office is headed by a sharp defense wonk named Steven Kosiak — told the Pentagon that it had to cap spending at $

But, Rogin reports, that’s where the chicanery lies!

Here’s where it helps to have Defense Secretary Bob Gates impose some discipline. Getting eight percent more, outside the costs of the wars (!), during a time of global economic distress is, you know, really generous. An OMB official told Rogin that the Bush-drafted request was a “wish list” for conceivable defense spending — a classy little sayonara to the incoming Obama team — not a realistic budget. Gates has been telling anyone who will listen that the budget is coming down, hard choices are going to have to be made, and people are going to have to stop whining and reconcile themselves to this new reality. So it’ll be interesting to see if he starts with this budgetary gem.

But! I hear that he may send OMB a letter objecting to the $527 billion (outside of the wars!) ceiling. I’m trying to learn more about that now. Could it be that despite the resource-shift talk, Gates doesn’t mind a little budgetary good-cop-bad-cop?