House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R–WI) has released a fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget target. This target—302 allocation in budgetary parlance—was necessary since the previous congressional Democratic majority failed to pass a 2011 budget resolution or even enact a single 2011 appropriations bill. Instead they passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, which expires on March 4. Thus, this dereliction of the basic duties of governing required the new Congress to start from scratch.
The Ryan proposal would cut non-security discretionary spending by $58 billion below the level proposed by President Obama, and when security spending is factored in total discretionary spending, it would be cut by $74 billion.
With a federal budget deficit projected at $1.5 trillion for this year, spending cuts are essential. After growing consistently over the past decade, non-security discretionary spending alone jumped an additional 25 percent between 2007 and 2010—not even counting the $311 billion in “stimulus” funding these programs received. Given the historic trillion-dollar deficits Washington faces, fiscal reality requires paring back these increases and doing so immediately. So these cuts are welcome.
However, more needs to be done. For example, this target is well below the $100 billion in cuts the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) recently proposed. Ryan’s proposal, thus, could be a vehicle for lawmakers to reduce spending even further. As the appropriations committees work out the details of these allocations, adding additional cuts along the lines the RSC laid out could achieve even further steps on the necessary path to getting the federal spending crisis under control.
Unfortunately, the House Budget Committee’s allocation for security spending does not provide adequate defense funding levels to meet current national security requirements. Achieving the $74 billion in total discretionary spending cuts from the President’s proposal requires $16 billion in cuts to security, which includes defense. Congress should separately evaluate defense spending on its own merits to determine what is necessary to keep Americans safe.
Lawmakers should continue to rein in spending by quickly and decisively paring spending back for 2011 and turning next to 2012.