Seven days after President Obama called for a "fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world," the upshot of which must be $400 billion less in national security spending, the Pentagon still seems to have no idea what that means. DoD's top two weapons-buyers, Ash Carter and Frank Kendall, said in separate appearances Wednesday that it's all being worked out; Secretary Gates and the White House (presumably) are, even at this moment, making the weighty decisions about what happens next.
In the meantime, reporters are baying like wolves: Who's going to run this thing? How much of that $400 billion will come out of DoD's budget specifically? Will the services get to identify and keep "savings," as before? How will the review affect the FY13 budget? How will the costs of people -- e.g. pay, benefits and health care -- factor in? DoD already plans cuts to end strength in the Army and Marine Corps in a few years; could this exercise make those cuts deeper or happen sooner?
We may learn more before the end of the week, but for now it's one of those situations that infuriates people like Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes, a Republican who has complained that the Obama administration makes decisions first and then comes up with the justification afterward. When DoD said it was going to close Joint Forces Command, Forbes and many of his colleagues demanded to see the "review" or "analysis" that supported that decision. Of course there wasn't one (until there was) which permitted the opponents to attack the plan as purely political. No matter what cuts this big mega-review finally recommends, look for that same kind of argument very soon.