Secretary Gates is in Asia busily dealing with what are surely exaggerated reports of a growing Chinese threat. T'were ever thus at budget time. Meanwhile, the White House insistance that he cut his defense plans has led to a proposed $78 billion reduction in the long-term forecast for defense, announced last week. Surely they are trimming at the edges, since this would amount to roughly 2% of the projected defense resource over the next six years.
The National Journal regularly asks national security types to comment on such issues, and this week I have posted the piece attached below, in response to their version of the Goldilocks problem: is $78 billion too much, too little, or just right. It is available here (security.nationaljournal.com/2011/01/whats-next-for-the-pentagons-b.php#1854750 ), where you can see other contributions to the debate, or in full below.
I wonder sometimes how the military views the forthcoming budget deluge. Resources look like they will go south, but are the services anticipating this trend, and if so, how?
The Army should be sitting pretty today. It has 67,000 more soldiers than it did ten years ago, bigger than the entire military force of a number of other countries. And, according to DOD, the Army's budget has grown, more than doubled, from fiscal year 2001 to FY 2010, or 180% in current dollars and 118% in constant dollars. Outstrips the growth in the overall Pentagon budget, and leaves the Army with $215.6 billion this year, about twice as big as China's estimated overall defense budget.
But even with that largesse, and with the wars in Iraq and, soon, Afghanistan, winding down, fear has struck the Army, budgetary fear. As Lt. Col. Mark Elfendahl put it at the symposium, even the U.S. "credit card has a limit. When that credit card gets taken away, what do we do?"
By now much virtual ink has been devoted to the “cuts” that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposes in the defense budget and defense programs. These have been treated as a clear statement of intention that DOD will contribute to the overall effort at restraining federal spending, the deficit, and the growing national debt.
In reality, the Gates strategy does not make any contribution to restraining federal spending or reducing the deficit. And in trying to avoid cutting his budget, he is putting the Pentagon behind the curve in the growing effort to discipline the federal budget and on a collision course with other parts of federal spending and revenues.
My Beautiful and Talented Wife (The BTW) and I went to the movies last night. "Slumdog Millionaire" is a bit of a downer but an amazing film nonetheless. The BTW, who is a professional actor and, therefore, more qualified than most of the rest of us to say so, thought the acting was excellent.
But "Slumdog Millionaire" isn't the point of this post. As we sat through the seemingly endless previews, promos, and commercials before the film began, an anti-smoking public service announcement came on the screen that was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. Can anyone explain why DOD would pay to sponsor this PSA or how in any sense it's part of DOD's mission to curb smoking? If it's a federal responsibility at all, shouldn't the funds come from Health and Human Services or NIH rather than the military?