DoD Buzz

GOP presses for early release of mega review


Republican lawmakers want the Pentagon and the Obama administration's top budgeteer to unveil what they've come up with so far in the potentially crucial (or irrelevant) Mother of All Reviews, reports Bloomberg defense all-star Tony Capaccio.

Wrote Capaccio:

The review, begun by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has “preceded any substantial analysis of the future roles, missions and capabilities we want our military to perform,” Representatives Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, C.W. “Bill” Young of Florida and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin wrote.

The lawmakers, chairmen of the House Armed Services, Defense Appropriations and Budget committees, asked White House budget director Jacob Lew and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for “an update on the status and any preliminary conclusions from the review and the budgetary consequences.”

President Barack Obama in April asked Gates to find $400 billion in national security cuts over 12 years. The scope of the review has since been revised to about $420 billion in “security spending” over 10 years, with $330 billion in Pentagon reductions, as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that Obama signed Aug. 2.

So is the Building going to cough up whatever it's got so far so these lawmakers can keep pressure on the Super Congress to protect DoD from additional spending reductions? Actually -- no. A top spokesman said the review is "ongoing," that Secretary Panetta gets regular updates, and that the Pentagon has not decided whether it'll make public any part of the Mother of All Reviews.

Keeping this thing classified would be the ultimate letdown for a lot of people in the defense game, who -- even though they probably know better -- want it to make pronouncements such as: "The national security of the United States absolutely depends on the no. 344-D elbow-joint valve coupling manufactured by Indiana Valve Co. of Gnaw Bone, Ind.," meaning Indiana Valve receives a Get-Out-of-Budget-Cuts Card, and its representative in Congress can go on local TV with sleeves rolled up to declare victory for jobs. But Pentagon reviews almost always disappoint everyone except their own authors, especially given how much hype DoD officials build up in deferring questions until they're released.

Then again, if analysts actually will make serious recommendations about where the U.S. should take risks in its national security posture, there may be good reasons to keep it under wraps. Washington may not want the world to know that it doesn't actually consider Russia a conventional threat to Europe, for example, which is the reason it wants to close some bases in Europe; or that American forces need to be moved around the Western Pacific given new classified updates about China's capabilities. But even if the Pentagon is doing this kind of review and decides to keep all or part of it secret, we'll be able to infer some things about it because officials have said it will inform the fiscal 2013 budget submission, which could include recommendations for decommissioning aircraft, closing bases, and who knows what else. The idea is that when all that starts to happen, at least someone, somewhere, will comprehend why.

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