USA – Balancing Strategy, Resources and Politics: Options for the President’s FY2016 Budget Request

The Center for strategic and international studies (CSIS) analyses options for the President’s FY2016 Budget Request.

On February 2, 2015, President Obama will submit to Congress his budget request for FY2016 and lay out his plans for the next five years (FY2016-2020).  This will be the last budget both built and executed by the Obama administration. With the stability provided by the Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act in the past, the debate over how much to spend on defense and how to pay for it will return with a vengeance.

In the absence of another budgetary agreement like Ryan-Murray, the full sequestration caps mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 will be enforced in FY2016. The global security environment worsened during 2014 on many fronts — Ukraine (fueled by Russian revanchism), Iraq and Syria (with the establishment of the Islamic State) and global terrorism (with attacks from homegrown jihadists), to name only the most threatening. Given the proliferation of global threats, it is debatable whether the FY2014-2015 defense budgets, even with the Ryan-Murray budget relief, adequately funded the administration’s national security strategy (a subject we’ll return to). There is little debate, in fact there appears to be a broad consensus from lawmakers in both chambers and from the executive branch, that defense spending at the statutory BCA cap is too low. Nonetheless, the political realities around the tradeoffs required to increase spending will be difficult to overcome.

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