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More Calls for Pentagon Cuts

November 19, 2010

The new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center's Domenici-Rivlin commission adds another voice to the growing chorus of calls for cuts in Pentagon spending as part of any deficit reduction plan. Among the most important elements of the report with respect to defense are its call for a rethinking of the roles and missions of the U.S. armed forces, including a de-emphasis on wars of occupation like Iraq and large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns like Afghanistan; its call for significant reductions in the number of troops in the U.S. military; and its recommendation for cuts in the U.S. intelligence community's massive $80 billion annual budget.

Total savings from the plan between 2012 and 2020 would be $1.1 trillion. Gordon Adams and his colleagues at the Stimson Center -- which crafted the defense portion of the Domenici-Rivlin report -- have done an excellent four-page summary of their recommendations, available on their "The Will and the Wallet" web site.

For those who argue that these kinds of cuts can't be implemented in the context of a more conservative Congress and a strong arms lobby, Adams and his colleagues point out that from 1985 through 1998 -- a period in which deficit reduction was taken seriously -- the Pentagon budget was reduced by more than one-third in real terms; weapons procurement spending was cut by one half; 700,000 troops were eliminated from the armed forces; and 300,000 civilian posts were cut at the Pentagon. That is a substantially deeper set of cuts than those set out in any of the current plans for defense cuts, including the Sustainable Defense Task Force; the Bowles-Simpson report; or a recent report by the Cato Institute. So, it can be done, and there will be cuts -- the only question is how deep, and what elements of Pentagon spending will be cut. A good rough guide to what needs to be done is contained in a new letter from 46 experts, released by the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.and addressed to the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (the Bowles-Simpson panel).

I will have more to say on this topic, particularly on the likely dynamics of the Pentagon budget debate in the new Congress that comes into office in January.

Originally posted at TPMCafe on November 19, 2010.

Posted by coalition at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

A U.S. Defense Budget Worthy of Its Name

November 18, 2010

By Christopher A. Preble and Benjamin H. Friedman

The non-war portion of the 2011 U.S. defense budget will be roughly $550 billion. That is more, in constant dollars, than we Americans spent on defense at the height of the Reagan buildup, in the midst of the Cold War. How could this be?

The primary cause is the plethora of missions given to the U.S. military. These days, policymakers want the U.S. military to:

# contain China,

# transform failed states into stable democracies,

# chase terrorists,

# train various foreign militaries to chase terrorists,

# protect sea lanes,

# keep oil cheap,

# democratize the Middle East,

# protect European, Asian and Middle Eastern states from aggression,

# spread goodwill through humanitarian missions,

# respond to natural disasters at home and abroad,

# secure cyberspace, and much more.

The military forces and budget needed to pursue these goals can never be enough. Defining the requirements of our defense so broadly is not just destructive of U.S. national wealth — but is also counterproductive.

Our global military activism drags us into others' conflicts, provokes animosity and encourages weapons proliferation. We can save great sums and improve national security by narrowing our goals and adopting a defense budget worthy of its name.

A more modest strategy -- let's call it a U.S. doctrine of military restraint -- starts with the observation that power tempts the United States to meddle in foreign troubles that we should avoid. George Washington set us on the right track in 1796 when he advised Americans "to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world."

Such restraint means fighting the temptation to occupy failing states and to extend indefinite commitments to defend healthy ones.

It would husband American power -- rather than dissipate it by spreading promises and forces hither and yon. Adopting this strategy would allow us to safely spend far less -- at least $1.22 trillion less over the next ten years, we estimate.

Continue reading.

This article was published at The Globalist on November 18, 2010, and can be read in its entirety here.


Christopher Preble is director of foreign policy studies, and Benjamin Friedman is a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies, at the Cato Institute.

Posted by coalition at 09:29 PM | Comments (0)

Deficits and Defense 11.19.2010

Featuring Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts); Loren B. Thompson, Chief Operating Officer, Lexington Institute; and Benjamin Friedman, Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies, Cato Institute; moderated by Christopher Preble, Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

The Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Concern over the nation's looming deficit has prompted a renewed focus on the need for spending cuts. Some in Washington would shield the Pentagon's budget from scrutiny, but several newly elected members of Congress who have put deficit reduction at the top of their agenda have said that military spending cuts must be on the table. The costs associated with being the world's policeman, they say, are simply too high. The United States must seek ways to shift the burdens of defense to other countries who have enjoyed the free ride at American taxpayers' expense for too long. Who will prevail? In what ways will fiscal constraints force Washington to reconsider the purpose of American military power? Will Washington rein in its ambitions as defense spending comes down, or will our troops be forced to bear additional burdens?

The event is free of charge and open to the public.

For additional information, visit the Cato website.

Posted by coalition at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

Coalition Issues Letter to Deficit Reduction Commission Regarding Military Spending

NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERTS & SCHOLARS URGE FISCAL COMMISSION TO CUT PENTAGON BUDGET; CITE NEED TO RETHINK U.S. MILITARY POSTURE

"Fiscal realities call on us to strike a new balance between investing in military power and attending to the fundamentals of national strength on which our true power rests."

November 18, 2010

Contacts:

AARON ESKE, 202-478-6156
aeske@mrss.com

PAULA CHRIN DIBLEY, 202-478-6138
pchrin@mrss.com

Washington, D.C. -- Forty-six top scholars and practitioners of national security policy delivered a joint letter to President Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform today, urging it to reduce the Pentagon's budget as part of the deficit cutting process. The group includes several well-known retired military officers. The convergence of opinion -- rare among this group of policy leaders and visionaries -- sends a forceful nonpartisan message that America must re-think its Defense posture to be sustainable for the future.

Last week the Co-chairmen of the Fiscal Commission publicly released options for reducing defense spending by as much as $100 billion per year. However, opposition to such cuts is mounting. Against this, the joint letter lays out the reasons why significant savings can be found in the Pentagon budget, arguing that "reducing the national debt is also a national security imperative."

"We can achieve safe savings in defense," writes the group, "if we are willing to rethink how we produce military power and how, why, and where we put it to use."

Signatories from across the country include a Nobel laureate, former Assistant Secretaries of Defense and Commerce, a former head of the Congressional Budget Office National Security Division and a former head of the National Security and International Affairs section of the White House Office of Management and the Budget. Also among the signatories are former members of the National Security Council, National Intelligence Council, and National Defense Panel. Twenty-two of the signatories are members of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Several of the signatories are former military officers of colonel rank or above, including the former president of the National Defense University, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, Jr. (USA, ret), and renowned Army innovator, Col. Douglas Macgregor (USA, ret), who holds a bronze star for valor in the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

The 46 signatories of the letter emphasized that granting defense a special dispensation puts at risk the entire deficit reduction effort. Defense spending today constitutes over 55 percent of discretionary spending and 23 percent of the federal budget. An exemption for defense not only undermines the broader call for fiscal responsibility, but also makes overall budget restraint much harder as a practical economic and political matter.

Today the United States possesses a wide margin of global military superiority. The signatories acknowledged the possibility that larger military adversaries may rise to face us in the future. But they pointed out that the best hedge against this possibility is vigilance and a vibrant economy supporting a military able to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.

In October, 57 bipartisan members of Congress led by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul sent a separate letter to the Commission urging members to consider real cuts to the Pentagon's budget.

"Change along these lines is bound to be controversial," said the letter sent today by the experts. "Budget reductions are never easy -- no less for defense than in any area of government. However, fiscal realities call on us to strike a new balance between investing in military power and attending to the fundamentals of national strength on which our true power rests."

Full text of the letter is below and examples of options for the Commission to pursue can be found here.

###

Dear Co-chairman Bowles and Co-chairman Simpson:

We are writing to you as experts in national security and defense economics to convey our views on the national security implications of the Commission's work and especially the need for achieving responsible reductions in military spending. In this regard, we appreciate the initiative you have taken in your 10 November 2010 draft proposal to the Commission. It begins a necessary process of serious reflection, debate, and action.

The vitality of our economy is the cornerstone of our nation's strength. We share the Commission's desire to bring our financial house into order. Doing so is not merely a question of economics. Reducing the national debt is also a national security imperative.

To date, the Obama administration has exempted the Defense Department from any budget reductions. This is short-sighted: It makes it more difficult to accomplish the task of restoring our economic strength, which is the underpinning of our military power.

As the rest of the nation labors to reduce its debt burden, the current plan is to boost the base DOD budget by 10 percent in real terms over the next decade. This would come on top of the nearly 52 percent real increase in base military spending since 1998. (When war costs are included the increase has been much greater: 95 percent.)

We appreciate Secretary Gates' efforts to reform the Pentagon's business and acquisition practices. However, even if his reforms fulfill their promise, the current plan does not translate them into budgetary savings that contribute to solving our deficit problem. Their explicit aim is to free funds for other uses inside the Pentagon. This is not good enough.

Granting defense a special dispensation puts at risk the entire deficit reduction effort. Defense spending today constitutes over 55 percent of discretionary spending and 23 percent of the federal budget. An exemption for defense not only undermines the broader call for fiscal responsibility, but also makes overall budget restraint much harder as a practical economic and political matter.

We need not put our economic power at risk in this way. Today the United States possesses a wide margin of global military superiority. The defense budget can bear significant reduction without compromising our essential security.

We recognize that larger military adversaries may rise to face us in the future. But the best hedge against this possibility is vigilance and a vibrant economy supporting a military able to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.

We can achieve greater defense economy today in several ways, all of which we urge you to consider seriously. We need to be more realistic in the goals we set for our armed forces and more selective in our choices regarding their use abroad. We should focus our military on core security goals and on those current and emerging threats that most directly affect us.

We also need to be more judicious in our choice of security instruments when dealing with international challenges. Our armed forces are a uniquely expensive asset and for some tasks no other instrument will do. For many challenges, however, the military is not the most cost-effective choice. We can achieve greater efficiency today without diminishing our security by better discriminating between vital, desirable, and unnecessary military missions and capabilities.

There is a variety of specific options that would produce savings, some of which we describe below. The important point, however, is a firm commitment to seek savings through a reassessment of our defense strategy, our global posture, and our means of producing and managing military power.


  • Since the end of the Cold War, we have required our military to prepare for and conduct more types of missions in more places around the world. The Pentagon's task list now includes not only preventive war, regime change, and nation building, but also vague efforts to "shape the strategic environment" and stem the emergence of threats. It is time to prune some of these missions and restore an emphasis on defense and deterrence.
  • U.S. combat power dramatically exceeds that of any plausible combination of conventional adversaries. To cite just one example, Secretary Gates has observed that the U.S. Navy is today as capable as the next 13 navies combined, most of which are operated by our allies. We can safely save by trimming our current margin of superiority.
  • America's permanent peacetime military presence abroad is largely a legacy of the Cold War. It can be reduced without undermining the essential security of the United States or its allies.
  • The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the limits of military power. Avoiding these types of operations globally would allow us to roll back the recent increase in the size of our Army and Marine Corps.
  • The Pentagon's acquisition process has repeatedly failed, routinely delivering weapons and equipment late, over cost, and less capable than promised. Some of the most expensive systems correspond to threats that are least prominent today and unlikely to regain prominence soon. In these cases, savings can be safely realized by cancelling, delaying, or reducing procurement or by seeking less costly alternatives.
  • Recent efforts to reform Defense Department financial management and acquisition practices must be strengthened. And we must impose budget discipline to trim service redundancies and streamline command, support systems, and infrastructure.

Change along these lines is bound to be controversial. Budget reductions are never easy - no less for defense than in any area of government. However, fiscal realities call on us to strike a new balance between investing in military power and attending to the fundamentals of national strength on which our true power rests. We can achieve safe savings in defense if we are willing to rethink how we produce military power and how, why, and where we put it to use.

Sincerely,

Gordon Adams, American University
Robert Art, Brandeis University
Deborah Avant, UC Irvine
Andrew Bacevich, Boston University
Richard Betts, Columbia University
Linda Bilmes, Kennedy School, Harvard University
Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
Joshua Cohen, Stanford University and Boston Review
Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives
Owen R. Cote Jr., Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michael Desch, University of Notre Dame
Matthew Evangelista, Cornell University
Benjamin H. Friedman, Cato Institute
Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
David Gold, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School
William Hartung, Arms and Security Initiative, New America Foundation
David Hendrickson, Colorado College
Michael Intriligator, UCLA and Milken Institute
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington
Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives
Lawrence Korb, Center for American Progress
Peter Krogh, Georgetown University
Walter LaFeber, Cornell University
Richard Ned Lebow, Dartmouth College
Col. (USA, Ret.) Douglas Macgregor
Scott McConnell, The American Conservative
John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Steven Metz, national security analyst and writer
Steven Miller, Kennedy School, Harvard University and International Security
Janne Nolan, American Security Project
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College and Harvard University
Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
Barry Posen, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute
Daryl Press, Dartmouth College
Jeffrey Record, defense policy analyst and writer
David Rieff, author
Thomas Schelling, University of Maryland
Jack Snyder, Columbia University
J. Ann Tickner, University of Southern California
Robert Tucker, Johns Hopkins University
Stephen Van Evera, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Kenneth Waltz, Columbia University
Cindy Williams, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel Wirls, University of California, Santa Cruz

**This letter reflects the opinions of the individual signatories. Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.**

Posted by coalition at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

Letter to Deficit Reduction Commission Regarding Military Spending

Experts Letter on Defense Spending to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform


Dear Co-chairman Bowles and Co-chairman Simpson:

We are writing to you as experts in national security and defense economics to convey our views on the national security implications of the Commission's work and especially the need for achieving responsible reductions in military spending. In this regard, we appreciate the initiative you have taken in your 10 November 2010 draft proposal to the Commission. It begins a necessary process of serious reflection, debate, and action.

The vitality of our economy is the cornerstone of our nation's strength. We share the Commission's desire to bring our financial house into order. Doing so is not merely a question of economics. Reducing the national debt is also a national security imperative.

To date, the Obama administration has exempted the Defense Department from any budget reductions. This is short-sighted: It makes it more difficult to accomplish the task of restoring our economic strength, which is the underpinning of our military power.

As the rest of the nation labors to reduce its debt burden, the current plan is to boost the base DOD budget by 10 percent in real terms over the next decade. This would come on top of the nearly 52 percent real increase in base military spending since 1998. (When war costs are included the increase has been much greater: 95 percent.)

We appreciate Secretary Gates' efforts to reform the Pentagon's business and acquisition practices. However, even if his reforms fulfill their promise, the current plan does not translate them into budgetary savings that contribute to solving our deficit problem. Their explicit aim is to free funds for other uses inside the Pentagon. This is not good enough.

Granting defense a special dispensation puts at risk the entire deficit reduction effort. Defense spending today constitutes over 55 percent of discretionary spending and 23 percent of the federal budget. An exemption for defense not only undermines the broader call for fiscal responsibility, but also makes overall budget restraint much harder as a practical economic and political matter.

We need not put our economic power at risk in this way. Today the United States possesses a wide margin of global military superiority. The defense budget can bear significant reduction without compromising our essential security.

We recognize that larger military adversaries may rise to face us in the future. But the best hedge against this possibility is vigilance and a vibrant economy supporting a military able to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.

We can achieve greater defense economy today in several ways, all of which we urge you to consider seriously. We need to be more realistic in the goals we set for our armed forces and more selective in our choices regarding their use abroad. We should focus our military on core security goals and on those current and emerging threats that most directly affect us.

We also need to be more judicious in our choice of security instruments when dealing with international challenges. Our armed forces are a uniquely expensive asset and for some tasks no other instrument will do. For many challenges, however, the military is not the most cost-effective choice. We can achieve greater efficiency today without diminishing our security by better discriminating between vital, desirable, and unnecessary military missions and capabilities.

There is a variety of specific options that would produce savings, some of which we describe below. The important point, however, is a firm commitment to seek savings through a reassessment of our defense strategy, our global posture, and our means of producing and managing military power.


  • Since the end of the Cold War, we have required our military to prepare for and conduct more types of missions in more places around the world. The Pentagon's task list now includes not only preventive war, regime change, and nation building, but also vague efforts to "shape the strategic environment" and stem the emergence of threats. It is time to prune some of these missions and restore an emphasis on defense and deterrence.
  • U.S. combat power dramatically exceeds that of any plausible combination of conventional adversaries. To cite just one example, Secretary Gates has observed that the U.S. Navy is today as capable as the next 13 navies combined, most of which are operated by our allies. We can safely save by trimming our current margin of superiority.
  • America's permanent peacetime military presence abroad is largely a legacy of the Cold War. It can be reduced without undermining the essential security of the United States or its allies.
  • The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the limits of military power. Avoiding these types of operations globally would allow us to roll back the recent increase in the size of our Army and Marine Corps.
  • The Pentagon's acquisition process has repeatedly failed, routinely delivering weapons and equipment late, over cost, and less capable than promised. Some of the most expensive systems correspond to threats that are least prominent today and unlikely to regain prominence soon. In these cases, savings can be safely realized by cancelling, delaying, or reducing procurement or by seeking less costly alternatives.
  • Recent efforts to reform Defense Department financial management and acquisition practices must be strengthened. And we must impose budget discipline to trim service redundancies and streamline command, support systems, and infrastructure.

Change along these lines is bound to be controversial. Budget reductions are never easy - no less for defense than in any area of government. However, fiscal realities call on us to strike a new balance between investing in military power and attending to the fundamentals of national strength on which our true power rests. We can achieve safe savings in defense if we are willing to rethink how we produce military power and how, why, and where we put it to use.

Sincerely,

Gordon Adams, American University
Robert Art, Brandeis University
Deborah Avant, UC Irvine
Andrew Bacevich, Boston University
Richard Betts, Columbia University
Linda Bilmes, Kennedy School, Harvard University
Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
Joshua Cohen, Stanford University and Boston Review
Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives
Owen R. Cote Jr., Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michael Desch, University of Notre Dame
Matthew Evangelista, Cornell University
Benjamin H. Friedman, Cato Institute
Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
David Gold, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School
William Hartung, Arms and Security Initiative, New America Foundation
David Hendrickson, Colorado College
Michael Intriligator, UCLA and Milken Institute
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington
Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives
Lawrence Korb, Center for American Progress
Peter Krogh, Georgetown University
Walter LaFeber, Cornell University
Richard Ned Lebow, Dartmouth College
Col. (USA, Ret.) Douglas Macgregor
Scott McConnell, The American Conservative
John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Steven Metz, national security analyst and writer
Steven Miller, Kennedy School, Harvard University and International Security
Janne Nolan, American Security Project
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College and Harvard University
Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
Barry Posen, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute
Daryl Press, Dartmouth College
Jeffrey Record, defense policy analyst and writer
David Rieff, author
Thomas Schelling, University of Maryland
Jack Snyder, Columbia University
J. Ann Tickner, University of Southern California
Robert Tucker, Johns Hopkins University
Stephen Van Evera, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Kenneth Waltz, Columbia University
Cindy Williams, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel Wirls, University of California, Santa Cruz

**This letter reflects the opinions of the individual signatories. Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.**

Posted by coalition at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

Let the Games Begin: Bowles-Stimson, Defense, and the Way Forward

November 12, 2010

by Gordon Adams
The Stimson Center

The presidential debt commission co-chairs (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson) decided to move forward yesterday and present the package they want the commission to discuss over the next two weeks. In defense, it is a striking package, with a great deal of merit and no small amount of courage in tow. It also has one critical weakness, which I will come to.

The package puts defense squarely on the table in the overall effort to reduce the deficit and get the debt under control. It lays out a very detailed set of options, including procurement savings from terminating or cutting back on major programs (like the V-22 and the F-35), a 3-year military and civlian pay freeze, and a variety of efficiency savings, many of which have been advanced for years by the Congressional Budget Office.

The merit and importance of expanding the debate on future defense budgets this way is great. Just one missing piece; none of the co-chairs proposals are explicitly derived from a different view on how the US engages the world and the missions we give to the armed forces. They seemed to have set a budget cutting target, then grasped a variety of options to get there. The options are great, the context is missing.

Stay tuned for the release next week of the Bipartisan Policy Center's report on budget options, which will include defense options more closely linked to strategy.

This piece was first published on the Capital Gains and Games blog, on November 11, 2010.

Posted by coalition at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

Does TRADOC Get It, or How the Army Views the World and Its Budget

November 09, 2010

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?”

Some smoke signals came earlier this month courtesy of the “Alternative Futures Symposium” organized by the Army’s training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and reported in National Defense this week. And what a set of signals they are.

First, what are those futures. Well, very dark, indeed, if the Army is to be believed. The symposium played with three scenarios: “global economic collapse, one where enemies would deny the U.S. military access to critical areas of the world, and one where Asia has taken over as the global center of power.” Sounds like an excellent justification for budget growth, even though the U.S. Army already overshadows every other ground force in the world (possibly except China, and they are a “stay at home” military.)
Despite its abilities and its funding, the Army now fears America will lose its appetite to use the force, because doing so costs so much. So are there other missions that could justify the force? Stunningly, one of them seems to be to suppress potential social unrest here at home, normally a mission for the National Guard, when it is needed at all (and that is rare). According to Col. Elfendahl, “our sense is that there would be a greater domestic focus,” for the Army. Posse comitatus, step aside!! here come the Army!

Failing that mission, and given what the Army fears will be a reluctance to use a large force overseas, maybe fomenting coups would be a useful mission. The director of war-gaming at TRADOC, William Rittenhouse, suggested this possibility: “We normally react to insurgencies. But what if we fomented insurgencies” in areas where we would like to change the government. Now that would guarantee the world of “persistent war” Army chief of Staff General George Casey warned the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival about last July.

The only saving grace of the symposium may have been Rittenhouse’s admission that the Army hasn’t yet found a big enemy to justify the budget, but that China may not be the one: “how we can co-exist with China,” was his reported summary of the China threat others use to justify bigger military budgets.
The time for a sensible rethink of the missions and uses of the military is on us, especially with the budget pressures the nation faces. Not clear the TRADOC conference helped much, though.

This article was originally posted at Wall Street Pit: Global Market Insight on November 9, 2010. The original can be read here.

http://wallstreetpit.com/50010-does-tradoc-get-it-or-how-the-army-views-the-world-and-its-budget

Posted by coalition at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

Will Republican Gains Pump Up the Pentagon?

On first blush, it would appear that Republican gains in yesterday's elections would be good news for the Pentagon -- and for big contractors like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. For example, Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA), who is likely to chair the House Armed Services Committee, has said that "Our citizens have spoken, and they want a defense budget that is sufficient to address the challenges of today and tomorrow. One percent real growth in the base defense budget [the amount being sought by Robert Gates and the Obama administration] is a net reduction for modernization efforts which are critical to protecting our nation's homeland." And Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is likely to be the next chair of the House Budget Committee, managed to put together a 99 page "roadmap" for deficit reduction that doesn't utter a peep about reducing military spending, which rivals Social Security as the largest item in the overall budget and accounts for 56% of the federal government's discretionary budget. But these new Republican leaders won't have the last word on the subject by any means.

First, there is the question of divided government. President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate will have their say on levels of military spending, and they are unlikely to sign off on the kinds of increases that McKeon and his allies are likely to support (among those allies are Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, each of which have a major presence in McKeon's district, bringing home over $1 billion in annual Pentagon contracts). That's the good news. The troubling news is that the Obama administration itself is seeking 1% real growth on top of a military budget is already at post-World War II highs. But it's not all in their hands either, as I'll explain in a moment.

What about "We the People," the citizenry that the Tea Party folks act as it they are the sole representatives of? Would they stand still for defense cuts in the name of deficit reduction? Probably so, if two recent surveys are to be believed. The first, an informal survey done by CNBC, found that 63% of respondents named defense as their first priority for cuts if cuts are needed to reduce the deficit. This was an unscientific survey (on their web site, with a self-selected group of respondents), but it is an interesting piece of information nonetheless. At a more rigorous level, a new Financial Times/Gallup poll found that about two-thirds of Americans either think cutting defense to close the deficit gap is a good idea (29%) or "neither good nor bad" (36%). That still leaves over a third of the country that thinks cutting defense is a bad idea. So, if real cuts were proposed, it would all come down to who cares the most about their stated position (i.e.., enough to act on it in some way), and whether some of the "neither here nor there" group could be persuaded to change positions in one direction or another. So, it's complicated, but it hardly reflects a country that is clamoring for increases in Pentagon spending, as Buck McKeon has suggested.

Originally posted at TPMCafe on November 3, 2010. The rest can be read here.

Posted by coalition at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

Cut (Really Cut) Military Spending

November 01, 2010

by Christopher Preble

Despite all the hype about Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his cuts of big-ticket military projects, the Pentagon's $680 billion budget is actually slated to increase in coming years. This is unconscionable at a time when taxpayers are under enormous stress and when the U.S. government must reduce spending across the board. Barack Obama can save big bucks without undermining U.S. security -- but only if he refocuses the military on a few, core missions.

Unfortunately, the president has shown no real interest in cutting military spending or in revisiting the purpose of U.S. military power. Why not? For all his talk of change, Obama has continued on the path set by his predecessors. Like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, he sees the U.S. military as the world's sole policeman, and its armed social worker. It is this all-encompassing mission that requires a large military -- and a very expensive one. Americans today spend more on their military, adjusting for inflation, than at any time during the Cold War, even though the threats that they face are quite modest.

Keep reading.

This article was published in the November 2010 issue of Foreign Policy magazine and can be accessed here.


Christopher Preble is director of foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute and author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free.

Posted by coalition at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)