Among the evidence that the defense budget is driven by politics rather than strategy, the consistent one-third breakdown of the services’ shares of the budget is an obvious example.
At the beginning of his tenure, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen wasn’t willing to directly address why the budget was so evenly shared among the services.
But as he was leaving office he changed his tune, as Inside Defense reported in late September:
In a speech Thursday to Business Executives for National Security, [Mullen] said the ‘one-third, one-third, one-third’ approach to funding the three military departments could be obsolete. ‘I don't know if that's right,’ Mullen said. ‘Actually, if it isn't right, we need to change that.’
While the one-third arrangement may help the Joint Chiefs get along, creating an overall force structure that reflects strategy should be a higher priority than avoiding inter-service rivalry. Its impressive to see as prominent a figure as Mullen reach that conclusion during his term as head of the Joint Chiefs.