Just talked to a defense expert. This is how he understands the deal, and it sounds pretty hair-raising: In the first tranche, it freezes defense for fiscal year ’12 ($23 billion below the Ryan budget), and then freezes it for the next ten years. By contrast, the original Boehner proposal had increased spending for defense in fiscal ’12 and ’13. The first tranche basically bakes into the cake President Obama’s proposal for $400 billion in defense cuts over twelve years. Then, there’s the 50/50 trigger for the second tranche if the committee doesn’t do anything. That could be another $500 billion beginning in fiscal year ’13. Overall, it could be a 12–20 percent cut in the defense budget over time, which will likely have to come out of personnel, procurement, and training. In their wisdom, congressional negotiators apparently decided over the weekend that the next ten years will be marked by no significant military challenges to the United States or our allies.
Since this deal is a target moving very quickly, everyone is struggling to get up to speed on it. If these numbers don’t bear out, I will update as always, but they are from someone who follows this stuff for a living.