Is The “Defense Review” for Real?

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Secretary Gates has launched a “defense review” in response to the White House announcement that “security” budgets (largely defense) will be lowered $400 billion over the next twelve years. While the decision to undertake a review sounds dramatic, the required budget changes are not as serious as they might appear. Read the entire article here.

  • A quick calculation of projected defense budgets over the next 12 years shows that the President’s savings target could be met while maintaining DOD’s purchasing power – that is, by growing the base defense budget every year for the next 12 years by the rate of inflation.
  • The review is worthy, even if the President’s target understates what is likely to happen to defense resources over the next decade. And it will be up to Secretary Panetta, and his team, to make the decisions stick.
  • The Secretary is going to have to do better at defining the criteria for setting priorities. In particular, the future of COIN is in doubt – we have not done it well, the next wave of insurgents is hard to find, and few countries are going to invite us in the near future to remove their regimes, create instability and insurgency, and then stay around to fight it.
  • The Secretary is also right that more efficiencies are needed in DOD’s management and overhead. However, while he has made some efforts toward this goal, they are on the periphery of the problem.

For more analysis on this and other Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense topics, visit The Will and the Wallet.