NEW YORK TIMES
Six Ways to Save
May 8, 2011
Gordon Adams is professor of international relations at
A defense build-down is upon us and it provides a welcome opportunity to discipline the Pentagon. Admiral Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman made the point
Start by removing the 92,000 excess forces added over the past 10 years and reduce our ground presence in Europe and
Leon Panetta, who the new defense secretary, will need all his budgetary knowledge and negotiating skills to manage this build-down, our fourth since the end of the Korean War. We will not only reap the fiscal benefit of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; we can lower the current 10-year defense plan by 15 percent, contributing a trillion dollars to deficit reduction and leaving in place a globally operating, dominant military capability.
How should Panetta do it? First, set priorities among defense missions, something the current Pentagon leadership has not done. Put on the front burner the question of whether the
Second, lower the size of the ground force to match, removing the 92,000 excess forces added over the past 10 years and reduce our ground presence in Europe and
Third, we have weapons programs, whose costs are growing, whose performance fall short of expectations, and which may not be urgently needed, like the F-35 fighter and the
Fourth, shrink the defense "infrastructure" -- the offices and administration at the D.O.D. -- that consumes more than 40 percent of the defense budget. Beyond Secretary Robert Gates's “efficiencies,” uniformed personnel in the “back office” should be significantly reduced, and not replaced with civilians or contractors.
Fifth, tackle the intelligence spending “bubble.” Intelligence budgets have also grown, maybe doubled over the past 10 years. Efficiencies can be found, streamlining agency programs and consolidating administrative work.
And finally, the third rail — military compensation, health care, and retirement. The pay and retirement systems make management of the military force and more focused retention planning difficult. The costs of the military health care system are out of control.
There is a clear path to a disciplined defense budget and a well-managed build-down. It will not gut the military, but will leave a leaner, more focused force in place, while helping solve our nation’s fiscal crisis.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs