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.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/13/AR2010081305913.html

Posted by coalition at August 14, 2010 04:30 PM

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