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Will the Defense Cuts do What Robert Gates Says They Will?

August 14, 2010

The Aug. 12 editorial "Mr. Gates's rough cuts" and David S. Broder's Aug. 12 column, "Gates's budget warning shot," applauded the defense secretary for his plans to cut spending even though the plans will do no such thing. As Mr. Broder wrote, Mr. Gates proposed closing the U.S. Joint Forces Command and shedding contractors and generals in the Pentagon's employ. But neither piece noted that these proposals are part of a plan to shift some Pentagon spending from administration to force structure -- not to cut total spending.

The impetus for the cost-shifting plan is the White House's reluctance to increase Pentagon spending by more than 1 percent above inflation for the next few years. Rapid growth in procurement and personnel spending makes that increase insufficient to cover the military's programmatic costs.

Bloated administrative overhead is a good place to find funds for that end. But taxpayers gain nothing.

Mr. Gates has requested substantial increases in defense spending every year that he has been secretary. He opposes spending cuts, even after the wars end, even though the United States now spends more on defense than at any time during the Cold War, adjusting for inflation. He openly hopes that these proposals to heighten administrative efficiency deflect pressure to cut spending. By pretending that these changes do so, The Post helps shield Pentagon spending from scrutiny.

Benjamin Friedman, Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies at the Cato Institute and is a member of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, an ad hoc advisory panel created by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

This letter was originally posted on the Washington Post's website on August 14, 2010 and can be found here.

Posted by coalition at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

More Cuts for Robert Gates' Defense Department

August 13, 2010

As a former military officer who served in the Pentagon, I salute Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's efforts to cut unnecessary or marginally useful expenditures in favor of funding higher-priority programs ["Thousands of defense jobs to be eliminated," front page, Aug. 10].

There's low-hanging fruit right in front of Mr. Gates in his own Office of the Secretary of Defense. In the 1960s, the senior staff of the defense secretary consisted of a deputy secretary, seven assistant secretaries and a director of defense research and engineering.

Most observers agree that Secretary Robert McNamara was able to exercise effective control over the Pentagon with that level of staffing.

Since then, a supervisory layer of undersecretaries, with all their trappings, has been added over the assistant secretaries. Coupled with the addition of some 1,000 staff members over the past decade, this has bloated an already overly large bureaucracy.

Freezing the number of employees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the next three years is not enough. Why not streamline the operation, at least somewhat, by returning to the model of the mid-'60s?

Robert G. Gard Jr., Rockville

Robert Gard is a retired lieutenant general, serving 31 years in the United States Army. His letter was originally printed in the Washington Post on August 13, 2010. It can be read here.

Posted by coalition at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

The QDR's Catastrophic Report

August 05, 2010

It's time to stop passing the buck on defense spending.
by Lawrence Korb and Charles Knight

We are delighted to note that Tom Mahnken thinks the report of the Quadrennial Defense Review independent panel "should generate a debate over America's role in the world." It is high time we had such a debate. He also correctly states, "The panel's report stands in stark contrast with the recent report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force." We served on that task force and would be pleased to discuss the stark contrasts between our report and the QDR report in person or before Congress.

But we'd need to begin by pointing out that Mahnken misses the substance and purpose of the Sustainable Defense Task Force's report. Mahnken goes on to say that our report seeks "to curtail America's global role to fit a shrinking defense budget," invoking the international role and pursuit of interests "that have animated American grand strategy since the end of World War II." But the Sustainable Defense Task Force budget adjustments aren't focused on curtailing the interests of the postwar years. Instead, our report focused on pulling back the vastly expanded and more ambitious military missions that have been pursued in the last decade by Washington. Even beyond the mindless, needless, senseless invasion of Iraq, this last 10 years has seen far more extensive (and costly) presence ground missions than were attempted during the Cold War.

Continue reading.

This article was first published online at on August 5, 2010, and can be read in its entirety here.

Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Charles Knight is co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives. They are both members of the Sustainable Defense Task Force.

Posted by coalition at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Time to Discipline DOD

August 02, 2010

The Disappointing Perry-Hadley Report
by Gordon Adams

The struggle to discipline the defense budget and reign in the Department of Defense has begun. Growing concern about the deficit, combined with growing disenchantment at the ever-expanding global US military presence and the growing role of DOD in our foreign policy have combined to put this issue squarely on the table.

The latest round in this debate is the report of the Independent Review Panel on the DOD Quadrennial Defense Review. This report, chaired by former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, is longer than the Quadrennial Defense Review itself. The following column on that report is one I wrote for the National Journal national security experts' blog, published today, August 2, 2010:

The Perry-Hadley report, for all its detail, is a great disappointment. It betrays the continuing "suspension of disbelief" already painfully evident in the report the panel was created to critique: the Quadrennial Defense Review. Instead of bringing realism and discipline to defense planning, the report simply "doubles down" on the QDR, calling for even more forces and more spending. The report willfully avoids three pressing national security realities.

The first is our looming fiscal crisis, which JCS Chairman Mike Mullen has called "our biggest national security threat." The report simply waives this issue aside; DOD planning, it seems to argue, must be done outside this context, as if budgets and the need for restraint did not exist.

Second, the Perry-Hadley report, like the QDR, assumes that all military missions are a priority, all are urgent, and the forces must grow to perform all of them. From counter-insurgency/stabilization/occupation/nation-building on the one hand, to a massive expansion of the forces for conventional war/deterrence/allied reassurance on the other, the report calls for more mission expansion, and, by implication, for even more funding than the unprecedented level of defense spending we already have today. There is, here, no realistic assessment of the likelihood of challenges, no prioritization of missions, and no discrimination about US choices and interests.

Third, the report, like too many of our national security documents, assumes that US strategy should be driven by a Manichean world view, where threats around the globe are ever more present, dangerous, and challenging. While it pleads for a "whole of government" approach to our security, the focus of that "whole of government" is intended to pull all the US civilian architecture into the dark hole of perceived growing global violence and threat, to support military planning and deployment, focusing our civilian institutions on the way DOD should see the world.

Read the rest here.

This item first appeared on August 2, 2010 at The Huffington Post.

Posted by coalition at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)