The military services are starting to hunker down to defend against the coming cuts. None feels more vulnerable than the Army. John McHugh, the service’s secretary, recently emphasized that he wants the one-third budget distribution rule to hold throughout the period of reduction.
“I’m operating under one-third, one-third, one-third… If that changes, it won’t be because I suggested it.”
Still it’s looking less and less likely that the even budgetary divide among the services will stick. Cutting troop levels was a central recommendation of BFAD’s Leaner and Meaner strategy. Even retired Army LTG David Barno, speaking on behalf of the ground force-friendly Center for New American Security, thinks that the Navy and Air Force should eat at the Army’s expense:
“…the next decade will likely require greater naval and air capabilities instead of large numbers of standing ground forces that can conduct extended operations. Hard choices must be made.”
Multiple strategy options are on the table, each with different implications for the services. But, since the one-third split reflects a triumph of bureaucratic politics over strategy, choosing any of these options would entail shifting the budget shares. It’s looking more and more likely that the Army ends up with less pie.