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Where Libya fits into defense spending

From msnbc.com's Tom Curry
The House will vote Friday on a bill that would cut off funds for some -- not all -- U.S. military operations in Libya.  The funding bill, offered by two-term Rep. Tom Rooney, R- Fla., has large exceptions: it would not stop funding for search and rescue, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, operational planning, or aerial refueling operations.

Spokesman Michael Mahaffey said Friday that Rooney did not have an estimate of the amount of money that his bill would save, but “it does significantly cut back on what the administration is doing.”

But Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, told the House in debate Friday that Rooney’s bill would have little effect. “This says ‘deny funding’ but there are too many exceptions, and the exceptions are to allow the very things that the president is doing.” Paul said House members who oppose President Barack Obama’s Libya mission should defeat the Rooney bill, as well as defeating a one-year use of force authorization.

According to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, who argues that Obama needs to get congressional authorization for the Libya mission, said, “The administration estimates that the cost of these operations will exceed $1 billion by September.”

Here’s where that Libya spending fits in the larger defense budget.

Total Defense Department spending authority for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, is $671 billion. If U.S. operations over Libya end up costing $1 billion this fiscal year, that would be about one-tenth of one percent of total spending.

The defense spending bill for fiscal year 2012 which the House Appropriations Committee approved two weeks ago would decrease total spending by $22 billion from the current level, about a 3 percent cut.

It would reduce spending on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places under the heading of the “Global War on Terror” by $39 billion, but increase other spending by $17 billion. For instance the bill would spend $15 billion on ten new ships for the Navy which now has 285 ships, the smallest Navy that the United States has had since 1916, according to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead.

This year discretionary military spending -- not including retirement benefits -- will amount to 19 percent of total federal outlays. At the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, discretionary military spending accounted for 16 percent of total spending. To bring spending back to the Clinton-era level, Congress would need to cut about $120 billion out of FY 2012 military spending -- more than five times as much as the House bill would cut.