Monday, May 9, 2011

Six Ways to Save




Six Ways to Save

May 8, 2011

Gordon Adams is professor of international relations at American University’s School of International Service and a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center. From 1993-97, he was the senior White House official for national security budgets.

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: “The budget has basically doubled in the last decade. And my own experience here is that in doubling, we’ve lost our ability to prioritize, to make hard decisions, to do tough analysis, to make trades.”

Start by removing the 92,000 excess forces added over the past 10 years and reduce our ground presence in Europe and Asia.


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 U.S. military should continue to circumnavigate the globe fighting insurgents and building nations in countries that don’t particularly want to be experiments for our preconceptions about proper governance.

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 Asia.

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 Virginia class submarine. They should be scaled back or terminated. And take a hard look at the next generation of nuclear programs — a new long-range bomber, a full replacement of ballistic missile submarines, and new designs for nuclear warheads — as we seek to curb global nuclear forces.

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.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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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


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