WASHINGTON — For the first time in more than a decade defined by costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon announced plans Thursday to freeze its ballooning budget, forcing the services to shrink the Army and Marines and increase health care premiums for military retirees and their families.
The Pentagon said it can stop asking for annual budget increases in 2015, adjusting its spending only for inflation. The last time the Pentagon's budget went down was in 1998.
The plan is aimed at helping the United States whittle away at its massive deficit. But the proposal, which requires $78 billion in spending cuts and relies on another $100 billion in cost-saving moves to cover urgent requirements, is tied to two assumptions: that the war in Afghanistan will end on time and that Congress will agree to plans to cancel popular job-making programs and charge retired military families more for health care.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged that projections about what the world will look like so far in the future have a troubled track record.
But the Defense Department is "not exempt" from belt-tightening just because of its charge to defend the nation, he said.