The knives are out for the defense budget, according to this New York Times article:
In a shift of doctrine driven by fiscal reality and a deal last summer that kept the United States from defaulting on its debts, Mr. Panetta is expected to outline plans for carefully shrinking the military — and in so doing make it clear that the Pentagon will not maintain the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at once.
Instead, he will say that the military will be large enough to fight and win one major conflict, while also being able to “spoil” a second adversary’s ambitions in another part of the world while conducting a number of other smaller operations, like providing disaster relief or enforcing a no-flight zone.
Pentagon officials, in the meantime, are in final deliberations about potential cuts to virtually every important area of military spending: the nuclear arsenal, warships, combat aircraft, salaries, and retirement and health benefits. With the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, Mr. Panetta is weighing how significantly to shrink America’s ground forces.
Everyone knows that defense spending has to be slashed. It just has to. Because it has doubled in the last 10 years. All by itself, while no one was watching and nothing was going on in the world, anywhere. And even if there was, nothing like that will ever happen again. We’ve got drones, now.
Even though, as this chart demonstrates, the DoD’s share of the US federal budget remains at a relatively low historical percentage of GOP.
Because federal expenditures on mandatory spending such as Medicare, Medicaid, and – eventually – Social Security are on unsustainable tracks, and therefore we must balance the budget by sacrificing our current national security strategy. Which won’t, of course, do a thing about the unsustainable mandatory spending. But will allow the political class to kick the can of courage down the road a little while and hope for either, 1) a miracle or, 2) for the implosion to happen on somebody else’s watch, while 3) keeping our fingers crossed that none of the world’s bad actors get froggy. Because when it comes to national security, hope is an excellent strategy. Trust us.
Keeping in mind that shutting the doors on DoD entirely would still result in an $800 billion increase to next year’s aggregate deficit, which now stands at $15 trillion, $4.6 trillion of that having been added in the last three years. This amounts to a nearly 60% increase over the preceding eight years as a proportion of GDP.
We’ll almost certainly have to radically reduce the ground forces, a couple of fighter wing equivalents and at least one or two aircraft carriers – the same forces which have allowed the US since the Cold War days to provide forward presence and deterrence.
Which is actually OK, because the Islamic Republic of Iran has just told us that the USS John C. Stennis is no longer welcome in their neck of the woods:
Iran’s army chief on Tuesday warned a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf, as Iran’s navy ended 10 days of tense war games in the Persian Gulf…
Gen. Ataollah Salehi, the commander of the Iranian armed forces, lauded Iran’s defensive skills and lashed out against the USS John C. Stennis and its battle group. The carrier and its accompanying ships left the strategic Persian Gulf last Thursday, their departure filmed by Iranian drones.
“We warn this ship, which is considered a threat to us, not to come back, and we do not repeat our words twice,” Salehi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency.
So there’s one we can cut right there.
The Iranians just made it easy on us.