Singer on Sequestration

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Here at Battleland, we like to think of ourselves as a kind of Golden Corral buffet bar, with something for everyone (most military posts seem to have a Golden Corral nearby, with a Waffle House for breakfast, of course).

But sometimes you need a ration of broccoli.

This is one of those times. The sturm und drang surrounding sequestration has turned has turned normally mild-mannered defense dweebs into hair-on-fire crazies. Even the bald ones.

So this week, we’re pleased to have Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution weighing in on the topic in a series of daily posts. Singer is one of the defense world’s pre-eminent thinkers and writers on military robots, which isn’t to suggest he’s a robotic thinker. His defense interests range widely, and he’s going to share his exploration of the hottest topic in defense circles with Battleland readers this week.

He’s taking a serious subject seriously, and removing it from the rhetorical political hothouse that is the current debate over sequestration’s potential impact on the Pentagon. He may write in a deliberative manner that sometimes sacrifices wit for wisdom, but such knowledge has been in decidedly short supply on this topic.

(Cheat sheet: if the Congress and President Obama fail to come up with a deficit-reduction package totaling $1.2 trillion over the coming decade by Jan. 2, roughly half that sum will be hacked from the nation’s security spending, largely across the board. This is a deal both sides agreed to last year. It would scale Pentagon spending back to roughly 2007’s level. Its base budget would still be larger than the one that fueled President Reagan’s defense buildup in the decade of the 1980s.)

The second half of his work this week drills down into what sequestration might mean on the Korean peninsula.

Korea “is an area where the concern over what sequestration means for them is extremely high, it’s perhaps one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the world, and finally it’s an area where we have seen mistaken perceptions of weakness and miscalculation lead to conflict in the past,” Singer says, when asked why he focused there. “But in many ways its approach provides lessons on any number of other locales.”

It’s an important topic warranting serious discussion. We’re glad to have Peter lending some clarity to a debate that has sadly been lacking in same.