Toward a Responsible Defense Budget

June 30, 2010

In a recent article in The Daily Caller, Chet Nagle claims that the Obama administration “plans to eliminate over a trillion defense dollars in the next ten years.” Unfortunately, he has no basis for saying so.

The Department of Defense is one of the only government agencies slated to receive real increases in spending over the next few years, according to the administration’s budget submissions. Nagle pretends that the cuts proposed in a recent report by the Sustainable Defense Task Force have the administration’s support. This is not the case.

As a member of the task force, I actually wish Nagle were right. Even modest cuts to military spending — which has grown by 86 percent since 1998 — would show that the administration had reconsidered the approach to U.S. military power that has prevailed in Washington since the end of the Cold War. But like the last one, this administration seems to believe that U.S. troops should answer every 911 call, with American taxpayers footing the bill.

Perhaps Nagle was misled by a series of speeches by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in which Gates questioned the need for expeditionary fighting vehicles when we haven’t landed Marines on a hostile shore since the Inchon landing in September 1950. Perhaps Nagle confused Gates’ pledge to eliminate waste and inefficiency within the Pentagon’s budget as a sign that the secretary was serious about cutting military spending. Far from it; Gates is mainly shifting spending within the Pentagon’s budget. The bottom-line figure continues to grow.

Equally misguided is Nagle’s claim that eliminating the bomber leg of the nuclear triad is a step toward unilateral disarmament. This proposal finds support in a report published by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, not the province of peaceniks and anti-nuclear activists. A separate article published by the chief of the Air Force Strategic Plans and Policy Division and two Air Force War College professors concluded that as few as 311 nuclear warheads would constitute an effective and credible deterrent. The U.S. simply does not need the same nuclear force structure — bombers, missiles, and submarines — that it had during the height of the Cold War.

This article was originally posted on the Daily Caller website on June 30, 2010. The rest can be read here.

Christopher Preble is the director of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and a member of the Sustainable Defense Task Force.

Posted by coalition at June 30, 2010 04:22 PM

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