Several days before the White House release of the fiscal year 2016 budget, the Pentagon leaked its budget request totaling $585 billion. The Department of Defense budget includes $534 billion for the base budget and $51 billion for the overseas contingency operation account, an emergency supplemental that is exempt from the spending caps established in the Budget Control Act.

Even though the details of the budget haven’t been released, here are some important early takeaways.

  • The budget is $34 billion over Budget Control Act levels. The BCA sets Department of Defense spending at about $500 billion. The Pentagon’s base budget request of $534 billion exceeds that spending cap. Barring legislation that would increase the BCA spending caps for defense, this budget amount will trigger another round of across-the-board spending cuts to make up for the overage.
  • Obama’s request is not the largest base budget in history. Some articles have said this is the largest base budget in history. If one considers this in nominal dollars, or includes inflation, then it would be the largest base budget, by $4 billion, since 2001, when the department started differentiating between base and OCO dollars. But in real 2015 dollars—which produces the most accurate apples-to-apples comparison—the largest base year request was $574 billion in FY 2010.
  • Same budget mistakes as last year. In last year’s budget request, DOD estimated the FY 2016 budget to be $535 billion, practically equivalent to this year’s actual request of $534 billion. But last year’s budget had some fatal flaws. The Pentagon’s proposed budget was not high enough to pay for the requirements it outlined, which included more troops in the Army and Marine Corps, as well as an 11th aircraft carrier. In addition, in what Deputy Secretary Bob Work called $70 billion worth of ‘nos,’ Congress rejected many of the cost-saving proposals DOD had assumed into its budget, including retiring the A-10 aircraft. If last year’s budget was $20 billion short, it is safe to assume this year’s has shown little improvement.
  • Continued misappropriation of overseas contingency operations account. The department requests $50.9 billion for OCO, a slight decrease from last year’s request. But the practice of using contingency money to fund non-Afghanistan-related initiatives persists. For example, included in the overseas contingency operation request is $780 million to fund the European Reassurance Initiative that will, among other things, return some troops to Europe on a rotational basis. This activity should not be paid for by an emergency supplemental account.

A better understanding of the defense budget request will have to wait until Monday, when it is officially released. But so far, things don’t look to be improving.