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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pentagon Plans to Reduce Budget

The Pentagon announces a plan to cut defense spending:

Pentagon Plans Steps to Reduce Budget and Jobs, by Thom Shanker, NY Times: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that he would close a military command, restrict the use of outside contractors and reduce the number of generals and admirals across the armed forces as part of a broad effort to rein in Pentagon spending.
Mr. Gates did not place a dollar figure on the total savings from the cutbacks, some of which are likely to be challenged by members of Congress intent on retaining jobs in their states and districts. But they appear to be Mr. Gates’s most concrete proposals to cut current spending as he tries to fend off calls from many Democrats for even deeper budget reductions...
While large headquarters have been combined and realigned over the years, Pentagon officials could not recall a time when a major command was shut down and vanished off the books, even though some jobs will probably be added elsewhere to carry on essential parts of the mission.
The White House, which is under intense political pressure to address the rapid increase in the national debt, quickly stepped in to back Mr. Gates, saying his plan would free money that could be better spent on war fighting.
“The funds saved will help us sustain the current force structure and make needed investments in modernization in a fiscally responsible way,” President Obama said in a statement.
The potential savings Mr. Gates outlined are likely to be relatively modest in the context of a total Pentagon budget... The most significant step — in symbol and in substance — was his plan to close the military’s Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va. ...
For months, Mr. Gates has been arguing that if Congress and the public allow the Pentagon budget to grow by 1 percent a year, he can find 2 percent or 3 percent in savings within the department’s bureaucracy to reinvest in the military — and that will be sufficient to meet long-term national security needs. ...
Assessing his prospects for convincing Congress not to use its power over budgets to block these efforts, Mr. Gates said, “Hard is not impossible.” ...
Pentagon spending has averaged a growth rate of 7 percent a year over the last decade, adjusted for inflation (or nearly 12 percent a year without adjusting), including the costs of the wars. ...

Joe Klein adds some perspective:

Pentagon Cuts, by Joe Klein: The usual suspects are whining about SecDef Robert Gates' plan to eliminate the Joint Forces Command and reduce the number of Pentagon bureaucrats and contractors. Actual military experts like Abu Mook don't seem very upset. JFCom mostly existed to expedite inter-service relations--the sort of thing that's nice but not exactly crucial.
Actually, the most important thing here is context: the JFCom budget is $240 million in a Pentagon budget of over $700 billion. Gates intends to seek annual Pentagon budget increases of 1% per year; the savings from axing JFCom would be used to help fund the actual combat services being performed. That's good, but there's a larger question: How much of that $700 billion is actually necessary these days? How many cold war weapons systems are being sustained simply to keep Congressional members happy? (It is no accident that the Virginia delegation is up in arms about the end of JFCom--which is located in Norfolk.) And wouldn't it be better if the federal government were spending money on things that might actually help the economy--infrastructure, for one--rather than anachronistic weapons systems? And, while we're at it, why does the U.S. need to deploy troops in places like Germany and Okinawa? Is it really necessary to spend more on military stuff than the entire rest of the world combined?
If the deficit situation is so dire--and the need to create real economic growth, through new programs or tax cuts, so important--aren't these questions we should be asking? ...

What about the "the actual combat services being performed"? Are those necessary?

    Posted by on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 07:38 AM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan | Permalink  Comments (86)


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