WASHINGTON - The military will reduce its end strength by 5.5 percent over five years, while preserving military pay and benefits for current members and investing in technology and systems to counter future threats, according to Pentagon budget documents released Monday.
The fiscal 2013 proposal calls for a $525.4 billion base budget, down $5.2 billion from the current year, and $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations, down $26.6 billion.
The proposal follows the military strategy guidance President Barack Obama released last month that provides a transition from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a more agile and flexible military that responds to broad challenges and maintains global superiority while also helping to reduce the national deficit, officials said.
The administration has been working toward a $487 billion reduction in projected defense spending over the next decade, and the fiscal 2013 budget proposal calls for $259 billion in savings in the next five years. Officials said those savings would come from continued efforts at becoming more efficient, reducing overhead and duplication, and slowing the growth of personnel costs.
Defense officials said they followed a three-prong strategy for the budget request: to make disciplined use of resources, to follow strategic military guidance on decisions about force structure and investments, and to ensure the quality of the all-volunteer force while also slowing the growth of pay and benefits.
The proposal calls for $61 billion in spending cuts through fiscal 2017 - a continuation of $150 billion in proposed budget "efficiencies" in the current budget year - through reduced overhead and support, as well as improved business practices. It also calls for the department to become audit-ready by 2017.
The plan would increase investments in unmanned aircraft and tactical vehicles, maintain the joint strike fighter, and terminate the C-27 airlift aircraft and new weather satellites.
Also the following are part of the budget proposal:
• The Army would eliminate at least eight brigade combat teams;
• The Navy would eliminate seven cruisers and two dock landing ships;
• The Marine Corps would eliminate one infantry regiment headquarters, five infantry battalions, one artillery battalion, four tactical air squadrons and one combat logistics battalion;
• The Air Force would eliminate six combat coded fighter squadrons and one noncombat coded fighter squadron and 303 aircraft, including 123 combat aircraft, 150 mobility and tanker aircraft and 30 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
End-strength reductions would rise incrementally from a 1.4 percent reduction in fiscal year 2013 to a 5.5 percent reduction in 2017. The breakdown by service would be as follows:
• For the Army, a 0.9 percent reduction next year to 1,115,300, going to a 6.8 percent reduction in 2017;
• For the Navy, a 1.7 percent reduction next year to 385,000, going to a 3.9 percent reduction in 2017;
• For the Marine Corps, a 2 percent reduction next year to 236,900, going to an 8.3 percent reduction in 2017; and
• For the Air Force, a 1.9 percent reduction next year, going to a 2.3 percent reduction in 2017.
The budget request includes a 1.7 percent military pay raise, a 4.2 percent average increase in the basic housing allowance and a 3.4 percent rise in the basic allowance for subsistence.
As part of the plan, the Military Health System would receive $48.7 billion, down from $52.8 billion this year. Though there would be some fee increases in TRICARE and pharmacy co-pays for retirees younger than 65, officials said, fees will not increase for active-duty service members, survivors of military members who died on active duty or medically retired service members.
The budget request matches TRICARE military health plan fee increases to retirement pay. Retirees receiving $22,589 or less would pay $600 in enrollment fees in 2013, rising to $893 in 2017. Those receiving retirement pay of $45,179 or more would pay $820 in 2013 and $2,048 in 2017.
The budget request does not change the military retirement system in 2013 but includes a Defense Department request that Congress establish a military retirement commission to determine whether cost-effective changes should be made to the current system.
Defense leaders are fully committed to assisting service members and their Families, officials said. The budget request includes $8.5 billion for Family support programs.
The request provides $1.3 billion in funding for child care space for more than 200,000 children, as well as $1.4 billion for Family support centers and morale, welfare and recreation programs. It also commits $2.7 billion for the education of more than 61,000 students at DOD Education Activity schools in 12 countries and more than 33,000 students in seven states, Puerto Rico and Guam.
The request includes more than $50 million to improve public school facilities on military installations.
Military construction funding is set at $9.1 billion and family housing at $1.7 billion.
Under the proposal, the DoD Civilian workforce will decrease by 1 percent in 2013, and will receive a 0.5 percent pay raise, following a two-year pay freeze.
The budget request also seeks increasing opportunities for flexible work schedules and supports employee leadership development, training and wellness.
The request includes an overall $88.5 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq, down from $115.1 billion this year. Funding requirements have dropped in balance with decreased troop levels, officials said. The number of troops in Afghanistan is set to fall from 95,000 in the first quarter of this year to 68,000 by the end of 2013. Funding for Iraq - $2.9 billion is requested for 2013 - provides for equipment reset and DoD's costs for the State Department-led Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
Overseas contingency operations costs include $48.2 billion for operations, $9.3 billion for equipment reset and $5.7 billion for Afghan army and police forces.
The budget request includes $5.1 billion for force protection, including body armor and protective gear as well as armored and mine-resistant vehicles. Another $4.5 billion is planned for military intelligence funding, which includes investments in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.
The request would invest $1.4 billion in funding divided among the NATO alliance ground surveillance system, the combatant command exercise and engagement program, the National Guard State Partnership Program and the Security Force Assistance Program.
The request also provides for $3.8 billion in unmanned air systems, $3.4 billion for cyber technology, $9.7 billion in ballistic missile defense, $8 billion for space systems and $11.9 billion is science and technology, including a $2.1 billion set-aside for basic research.
Program cuts projected from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2017 total $75 billion, including $15.1 billion from the joint strike fighter and $13.1 billion in reduced shipbuilding.