DoD Buzz

DoD Budget Strategy Shredded

Cartwright Says Budget Cuts Coming; Size Unknown

Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget strategy of deferring defense budget cuts by offering $100 billion in efficiencies looks to lie in tatters as pressure for Pentagon cuts rises to seemingly unstoppable levels.

In the face of America's fiscal strains, the nation must choose a new global strategy that better conforms to our ability to spend, three top defense experts argue. And the nation's Nr. 2 uniformed officer says DoD is bracing for cuts and one of the top independent defense analysts has joined the defense cuts bandwagon, arguing the nation can afford to cut up to $60 billion annually even as we wage two wars.

Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters yesterday the Pentagon will lose some of the money harvested from the $100 billion in efficiencies the services have identified.

“We know there are going to be cuts, whether they are isolated to specific programs or whether they are macro level cuts, I don't know,” Cartwright told reporters in New York.

Yesterday, the defense experts said the Pentagon can either build a new strategy now and take into account the growing pressure for cuts from a variety of Republicans and Democrats or the Pentagon can be given a new topline by the White House and be forced to adapt to it internally, the three experts said. The experts are: Larry Korb, who works at the Center for American Progress and was a senior Pentagon official under President Reagan, Gordon Adams, American University professor who authored the defense recommendations in the influential Domenici-Rivlin plan and Carl Conetta, co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives.

Korb and Conetta They are all members of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, affiliated with Rep. Barney Frank. The panel published a report recommending almost $1 trillion in defense cuts. Adams was head of the defense section at the Office of Management and Budget under the Clinton administration and has actually done this before.

Politically, the second option is more likely given Defense Secretary Robert Gates' repeated commitment to grand strategy – higher strategy – is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object of the war – the goal defined by fundamental policy. The Office of Management and Budget is expected to give the Pentagon its topline numbers as early as next week.

Perhaps the key factor in the new budget reality is the block of Republicans known collectively as the Tea Party. "The Tea Party has introduced a level of uncertainty and undepredictability about how this game plays out on the resource side," Gordon Adams said.

Meanwhile, defense analyst Michael O'Hanlon -- who had said after the election that no defense cuts should be considered for two years -- switched gears and offered his own approach for cuts in a Washington Times op-ed this morning.

"The focus should be, rather, on the underlying or 'peacetime' defense budget of $550 billion. It represents about one-sixth of federal spending. Proportionately speaking, if we sought to cut our federal structural budget deficit in half by mid-decade or so, that might imply a 10 percent cut in the peacetime defense budget, or about $50 billion to $60 billion in annual spending relative to the current defense program," he wrote.

Which weapons can sustain cuts? O'Hanlon's list: the F-35 fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

His criteria for identifying weapons worthy of cuts were laid out this way.

* Weapons making maximum use of the computer and communications revolutions should be considered highest priority. These offer arguably the greatest benefit for the most reasonable price tag — the best bang for the buck.

* Weapons purchases that are redundant should be least protected, with tactical aircraft a case in point.

* Weapons that perform poorly, technically or financially, should be reassessed. These include some key Navy shipbuilding programs today.

* Weapons designed for less-important missions, if these can be convincingly identified, should also receive lower priority. Nuclear weapons modernization and perhaps Marine Corps amphibious assault are possible examples here.

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