Foreign and Defense Policy, Defense

Pentagon can run, but it can’t hide from sequestration’s consequences

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President Obama’s forthcoming defense budget is the first to “fully reflect the transition DoD is making after 13 years of war.” The budget guidance seeks to further refine the President’s guidance from 2012 and focus on four key missions for the US military while acknowledging that US military dominance can “no longer be taken for granted.”

Not only is that true, American superiority is already at risk or waning across the services and domains. This is one of the primary reasons the Pentagon’s 2015 budget plan spanning five-years will present a variety of off-ramps for policymakers. Given slight breathing room under the Ryan-Murray budget agreement—which still locked in $45 billion in 2015 defense cuts compared to the President’s request—Pentagon leaders were able to postpone many of the biggest consequences considered in last year’s strategic review.

Following all the decisions about what is sacrificed in the budget is additional clarity for Congress on further consequences should they keep sequestration on the books for the rest of the decade. For the Air Force, this would mean not only retiring all the A-10s and U-2s as called for in this year’s budget but also cutting the Joint Strike Fighter, retiring the KC-10 tanker fleet and shrinking the Global Hawk block 40 purchase. The Army will shrink further under current plans and would drop to 420,000 active duty soldiers if sequestration sticks. The Navy will cut the Littoral Combat Ship program by 20 ships, and it will lose 10 major surface combatants without additional budget relief.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is also putting forward new and needed proposals aimed at reining in overhead costs with the hopes of getting Congressional approval. The budget calls for reducing subsidies to military commissaries, asking for a small contribution to housing benefits from service members and providing a modest pay raise of 1%.

The Pentagon’s newest plan will continue shrinking the military and its generational edge. President Obama is submitting another defense budget that essentially seeks to cash in a peace dividend in a world with little peace. His own director of national intelligence recently told Congress that in over a half century, he has not experienced a time when the US has “been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.”

While this budget attempts to put on a strong face, the consequences of five years of defense dollar and capability cuts will be foreclosed options for the commander-in-chief and increased risk borne by those in uniform.

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3 thoughts on “Pentagon can run, but it can’t hide from sequestration’s consequences

  1. Commissary subsidies. In many cases their prices are greater than Walmart, Sam’s or Costco. In addition they have a bait and switch program where they add a 5% surcharge to all purchases. I’ve been told this is to cover bags, parking lot maintenance and store cleaning. As their prices are barely competitive, this makes them out of line. I have only found a dozen or so items that are less expensive than local stores. I won’t mention those as the savings will disappear by next trip. As I live in PR, many products are not available in the local stores. That is the only reason I shop there.

  2. Something serious needs to be done, in terms of efficiency, at the Pentagon. We are spending double, in real terms, that we did pre 9/11 and here AEI is suggesting we are “at risk.”

    According to the Cato Institute, “The department will spend about $633 billion in fiscal 2013, or $5,200 per U.S. household. It has 1.5 million uniformed employees and about 780,000 civilian employees.”

    That accurate enough–but buys into the idea that VA spending is not defense spending.

    This is like your local school district or police department claiming that pensions and health costs for retirees are not really part of school or police budgets. A fiction, in other words, that the most-beginning accountant would never accept, or naive citizen would accept.

    I find it bewildering that the AEI posits that VA pensions and disability payments are not part of our national defense bill—it displays an incredible lack of accounting hardnosed-ness. Or rank bias.

    So add another $152 billion to our nation’s defense bill, in VA spending. That’s another $1250 per household.

    Then we have the Department of Homeland Security. You have about $50 billion there. or another $410 per household. There is more, but you get the picture.

    We are spending $6860 per household on national defense, but AEI says it is not enough? Really?

    And that is every year and rising?

    Surely we can do a better job for much less money. Why doesn’t AEI devote some resource to blueprinting a much leaner and more efficient military that would secure our borders for…say half the current bill. You know, think of matters from the taxpayers point of view.

    The private sector occasionally goes through some real crunches. In the long run, these shake-outs are healthy.

    The federal government’s defense sector needs a hard shake-out.

  3. I completely agree with Mr. Cole. Troops counts and numbers of ships is not an accurate measure of US defense. And the missions flown by A-10 and U-2 can undoubtedly be replaced other systems, most especially drones. The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship is a ridiculous idea and a complete waste of money. Especially in view of the reality that the Marines will NEVER conduct another opposed amphibious landing. The Navy needs ships to suppress pirates and respond to natural disasters, while quietly stalking Chinese and Russian submarines. The LCS can’t do any of that. It’s merely an expensive toy that “demonstrates innovative hull technology”.

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