Obama may have to change his priorities if Congress and the Defense Department can’t mesh on funding.

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America’s presence abroad is expensive, and the costs appear likely to increase even more.

By Paul D. Shinkman
Sept. 5, 2014

America can no longer afford all of its wars and military adventures abroad.

That’s the argument put forward by a nonpartisan budget analysis expressing concern over an apparent disconnect between the Defense Department, which has submitted its new budget for fiscal year 2015, and Congress, whose inability to balance a budget and agree on deficit levels has triggered automatic cuts that have slashed military spending to the bone and beyond.

America’s presence abroad is expensive and likely will become even more costly. NATO announced Friday it will deploy new forces to protect Eastern Europe from a Russian invasion as the country threatens Ukraine, while the U.S. and its NATO allies also announced plans for renewed attention on Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State group continues to lay siege. Troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, though the current quagmire in Iraq may force the allied coalition to re-evaluate a “zero option” by 2016. And then there’s the so-called Asia-Pacific Rebalance, the ill-defined White House strategy that calls for 60 percent of the Navy’s assets to deploy to that part of the world in the coming decade.

The bottom line, quite literally, is that the Defense Department’s strategy calls for spending as much as $300 billion more than Congress has given it, according to a new analysis from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments on the Pentagon’s latest spending proposal. Barring new creativity in how the Pentagon deploys its forces abroad and takes care of them at home – or a new budget deal – President Barack Obama likely will be forced to reconsider scaling back his foreign policy plans.

“We’re at a fork in the road with this strategy-budget process,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the center who authored the report.

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