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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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Wednesday
Nov092011

Three Percent for Thriftiness

The Four Percent for Freedom movement – an unofficial cadre of defense analysts that advocate pegging the budget at 4 percent of GDP – are on the comeback now that Mitt Romney signed on as the front man.  Those opposed, like your humble team of analysts at The Will and the Wallet, point out in response that there’s nothing strategic about the size of the economy.  But that hasn’t deterred the Progressive Policy Institute from taking on Four Percent for Freedom directly with a defense savings plan based on a 3 percent of GDP floor. 

 Unfortunately, the difference between 3 and 4 percent of GDP is still just a number.  And it’s especially interesting that PPI opted for this metric given that it sees “Rule 1” of defense budgeting as “Don’t let fiscal politics trump U.S. strategy.”  PPI is positively right that defense spending should contribute to debt reduction, and 3% of GDP may even neatly fit with their preferred strategy today, but what happens if our economy and our national security don’t move in lockstep forevermore?

 Odd as much of this report’s construct is, nothing should take away from its logical cornerstone: “Everything—entitlements, tax revenues, domestic spending and defense—must be on the table.”  That sentiment is essential for putting the country back on a sustainable fiscal path and, while we come out at a somewhat different place on defense budgets, it’s important to keep sight of the common truth.

 * On a more parochial note, we were interested to see our Leaner and Meaner article binned by PPI as left-of-center while the Rivlin-Domenici defense recommendations are billed as centrist.  Close readers of the two documents will see that they’re almost identical, a reflection of the fact that we wrote them both.  As proud pragmatists, we’ll cozy up to the Rivlin-Domenici “centrist” label and let the left-of-center moniker slide.

Reader Comments (3)

Odd as much of this report’s construct is, nothing should take away from its logical cornerstone: “Everything—entitlements, tax revenues, domestic spending and defense—must be on the table.”

ge air conditioners

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterge air conditioners

One great fallacy about the set-GDP-for-defense proposals is -- if the U.S. goes into another recession or even into a Depression (which is entirely possible beginning with the new Admiistration in 2013), and GDP goes down, that should mean an automatic cut in the defense budget. Can you imagine the screaming among the GDP advocates when that happens? But it's all ridiculous anyway, since Administrations and Congress never budget on that basis (it's all tolerable deficits, deflators, and all that) and, besides, nobody knows what GDP is until after it happens. Predicted GDP? Forget it! PPI talking about "strategy first -- then budget" is also ridiculous. I've just sat through two days at NDU at a conference on U.S. Grand Strategy. Nobody knows what it is or how to make it. And they are all confused as to whether defense strategy is the totality of Grand Strategy or a mere niche in a Grand Strategy that starts with -- horrors! -- economics. And then there's the confusion in Grand Strategy as to whether we should be simply defending the U.S. or that the U.S. military should manage the whole world, bringing stability and democracy to everyone.

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHank Gaffney

Hank - that'll teach you to go to NDU conferences! :-)

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Laurence
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