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Defense Budget Materials

Prior to late 2011, the United States still had a "two nearly simultaneous major theater war" force structure that had been established some two decades before, in a time before the precision revolution. It was seen that surely this force structure could be halved, just due to not having Saddam to kick around any more. And former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld demonstrated that it was larger than needed when he kicked Saddam down with about half the force that the OPLAN called for. Each carrier air wing (and presumably fighter wing) has ten times the lethality of two decades ago, and yet the force structure "requirement" had been unchanged.

So if things were to have been cut in half because we only need to plan for Korea, and cut them in half again because they were over-sized to begin with, and cut them another bit back because of the precision revolution, then it might have been in the right ballpark. Most of the existing force structure could be mothballed or put into the Guard and Reserve, and would remain available as needed with a thoughtful tiered readiness posture.

Surely a $250 billion budget would have included enough R&D to keep us a couple of decades ahead of the CHICOMs (they are building "fleets of samples" and there we need not do otherwise to keep ahead of them), and if the Russians ever "resurge" it would be a gradual process to which we could respond in a timely fashion by hauling stuff out of mothball and the reserves.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen said the deficit was the largest threat to American national security, and the half-trillion annual structural deficit (as opposed to the much larger, temporary, cyclical deficit) is about the amount we are spending on defense that is un-needed.

  • The December 2010 Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposed cutting $1,230 billion over the period 2012-2020 from the security category, which constitutes about two-thirds of the discretionary budget. Security includes all defense spending, although for purposes of the caps war spending was addressed separately. It also includes spending on nuclear weapons, homeland security, veterans, and international affairs. Spending would be frozen at 2011 levels in 2012, estimated at $688 billion, and brought down to inflation-adjusted pre-crisis levels in 2013. This path would require serious belt-tightening to begin in 2012, followed by substantial nominal cuts in 2013. This would be done by holding spending growth to about half the rate of inflation. Although the Report is not overly explicit, this seems to entail a cut [from the President's budget] of about $60 billion in 2012 and $100 billion in 2013.
  • President Obama promised to cut $400 billion over a 12-year period. "These proposed cuts would come from an overall national security budget of approximately $1 trillion a year - which [also] includes portions of the budgets of Homeland Security, the State Department, intelligence services, and others," This amounts to three percent cut, roughly half of which would take place after Obama completes his second term in office, should he have one.
  • The House Budget Committee "Path to Prosperity" plan of April 5, 2011 "Reflects $178 billion in savings identified by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reinvesting $100 billion in higher military priorities and dedicating the rest to deficit reduction." Under this plan, Defense Department [ie, 050, a narrower category than used by President Obama], would grow from $583 billion in 2012 [not including the $127 billion supplemental] to $703 billion in 2021 [in then-year dollars not adjusted for inflation], for total spending of $6.461 trillion over the period 2012-2021. The annual GWOT supplemental is projected at $50 billion in the outyears, for a total spending of $577 billion over the period 2012-2021. The Congressional Budget Office is less confident of victory, and projects an additional $1,044 billion in war spending over this period.
  • In January 2012, President Obama announced reductions in defense spending as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. However, President Obama conceded that "Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow..." Any cuts made would be made to growth, and the budget, still twice as big in constant dollars than it had been in 2000, was expected to grow at that size commenserate with the expected rate of inflation. The Budget Control Act's cap for spending in the security category was $100 billion higher than the existing defense budget and after FY13, the cap applied only to the budget as a whole, meaning that cuts could be made to any area to meet the requirements. The Budget Control Act also specifically noted that spending in the security category could exceed the cap if there was agreement between Congress and the President that the spending was deemed an "emergency" necessity.

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