Call it the budget of denial. The Obama administration's $526.6 billion Pentagon budget request for the 2014 fiscal year arrived two months late and $52 billion over the spending caps. The White House insists that its wider plan for taxes and spending, released today, will make further deep cuts at Defense unnecessary. But if President Obama and congressional Republicans fail to cut a deal—odds are they won't—come October, the Pentagon will be scrambling once again to find many billions more in savings. It's still trying to find the $41 billion it has to cut this year.
The Pentagon request would slow, cut, or kill off only a limited number of weapons programs. It renews calls for base closures and an increase in health-care fees for military retirees. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the Pentagon is not "unmindful of sequestration" and that "we are planning for every eventuality." But the refusal to confront the nearly inevitable right now could make it even harder to persuade military leaders, Congress, and the defense industry that the time for hard choices and serious reform has finally come.