House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) yesterday gave the House Budget Committee what he called a deficit-reduction "freebie," under which it could claim $8 billion to $9 billion in deficit reductions without cutting programs.
The "freebie" stems from an assessment that anticipated defense spending has been overestimated by $8 billion to $9 billion for fiscal 1986, meaning projected deficits could be cut that much without affecting military programs.
This would be enough to cover full payment of cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for government pension programs, including Social Security.
"It exceeds the $7.7 billion the president says we could save by terminating 18 federal programs, including Amtrak support, the Job Corps, the Small Business Administration, postal subsidies, rural electrification, urban development action grants and others," Aspin said.
"It matches the $8.2 billion we would save by eliminating all federal COLAs. It dwarfs the $5.6 billion we could save by eliminating Social Security COLAs. To paraphrase the late senator Everett Dirksen, this is real money we're talking about," he added.
Although estimating actual outlays that result from congressional appropriations has always been inexact, "something has gone haywire" in recent years, Aspin said. They were overestimated by $10.2 billion in fiscal 1984 and are running $16.3 billion below fiscal 1985 estimates.
For fiscal 1986, it appears that defense outlays will fall below projections by $8 billion to $9 billion, even after the administration knocked $10 billion off of its earlier estimates, he said.
Aspin suggested several possible reasons for the disparity, including overly high inflation estimates and changes in cash-management practices.
As the House Budget Committee deliberated into the night on a budget proposal, House Democrats said they plan to caucus today to consider whether to limit cost-of-living increases for Social Security.