Despite calls from a handful of members on both sides of the aisle, it is unlikely there will be large defense cuts in the next fiscal years, a panel of policy analysts said Monday at the Defense Communities National Summit.

“Congress will boost the defense budget above inflation and boost deterrents” from China and Russia, said AEI Senior Fellow Mackenzie Eaglen. “We hear from a vocal minority, but that’s where the votes are.”

Eaglen repeated her assessment from last year’s Summit that the Republican Party is in a “long-term breakup” with defense spending.

If there are cuts this year or in future years, some lawmakers may look at quality of life programs that impact military families, in which DOD has invested heavily.

“The question is, if there are cuts, what’s going to be cut? Is it going to be death by 1,000 cuts by programs getting downgraded?” said Karen Jowers, a senior reporter at Military Times. “You in defense communities understand what military families go through. They live, work and spend money in your communities.”

The spending showdown makes “a government shutdown at the end of the year as political theater more likely than ever,” said Matthew Herrmann, senior advisor at The Roosevelt Group. “From a defense community standpoint, it’s a concern, because you have workforce impacts, and it may happen around the holidays.”

The other looming crisis is the showdown over raising the debt limit, said Todd Harrison, managing director of Metrea Strategic Insights.

“I worry we may hit that crisis point earlier than the end of the fiscal year,” Harrison said.

The panelists agreed it is unlikely that lawmakers will approve a round of base closures this year and that DOD probably won’t include it in in its budget request, which will start rolling out this week.

ADC photo by Will Noonan