Tag: dod budgets

The Pentagon’s Faux Cuts

President Obama might want it to appear as though he is reining in defense spending with his budget submission for FY 2012, but his approach to the Pentagon’s budget reveals the opposite.

Perhaps the president hopes that his adoption of the faux cuts that Secretary Gates put on the table last month will be seen as responsible. Perhaps he is taking a prudent first step and signaling to the military, and its suppliers and contractors, that the days of double-digit increases are over. That may be; but far deeper cuts are warranted. . If the president had truly wanted to send a signal, he would have followed the advice of his own deficit reduction commission and endorsed far deeper cuts in military spending.

The Department of Defense will spend $78 billion less over the next five years than previous projections. This amounts to a drop in the bucket – technically just over 2% – of total Pentagon spending over that period. Nonetheless, in Washington-ese, this constitutes a cut. But the base budget (excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) will increase – from $549 billion to $553 billion, the largest budget in the department’s history. In the past 12 years, the budget that has doubled in real, inflation-adjusted terms.

Deeper cuts should be made along with an effort to lessen worldwide defense commitments, reducing the strain on the force. It will be up to outside pressure – either from Congress or from interested groups outside of government – to force Washington to cease acting as the world’s policeman, and forcing other countries to take responsibility for their own defense.

How Much Is Enough?

In yesterday’s Daily Caller, I responded to an article questioning cuts in military spending. Although the author focuses on a few of the specifics proposals put forward by the Sustainable Defense Task Force (SDTF), he seems to imply that any cuts in a budget that has grown 86 percent since 1998 (in real terms) would undermine our security.

I was able to respond to his more outrageous claims, including his assertion that Barack Obama plans to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next ten years. In fact, Obama has now submitted two DoD budgets, each larger than the year before. We are spending more money (in real, inflation-adjusted dollars) on the military today than at any time since World War II.

One of the other assertions in an article riddled with errors deserves a response. The author claims that cuts in military spending would leave as vulnerable as we were in the early 19th century, when:

Strapped for money, Jefferson cut the navy by two-thirds and built small gunboats instead, saying they “are the only water defense which can be useful to us, and protect us from the ruinous folly of a navy.” What were the results of Jefferson’s version of a low cost ‘policy of restraint?’ Britain’s navy brushed the gunboats aside and burned the White House in 1814.

Fortunately, the British superpower of 1814 did not have an air force, a strategic missile force, or a large amphibious Marine Corps. If they had, they would have burned the Declaration of Independence, too.

Historical analogies are always tenuous, but this one might work…if you imagine that we were the British in the 19th century, and any other country in the world was the adolescent United States. The American superpower of the 21st century doeshave “an air force, a strategic missile force, [and] a large amphibious Marine Corps” and we will continue to have all of those things in the extremely unlikely event that Congress adopts all of the SDTF’s recommendations for cuts.

Here is how the SDTF report addresses the question of relative military spending:

In 1986, US military spending was only 60% as high as that of its adversaries (taken as a group). Today, America spends more than two and one-half times as much as does the group of potential adversary states, including Russia and China. This means that if the United States were to cut its spending in half today, it would still be spending more than its current and potential adversaries – and the balance would still be twice as favorable as during the Cold War.

The notion that we can’t cut anything from the military budget without diminishing American security, that we need to spend more money on the military today than at the height of the Cold War, is absurd. Even some prominent conservatives are beginning to question the wisdom of spending hundreds of billions of dollars every years on the military. Let’s hope this sensible thinking starts to catch on.