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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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Overstated Rivalry

There has been speculation that as the potential for a shrinking Defense Department pie grows, so will the level of interservice rivalry for funds. NPR’s Rachel Martin reported Thursday on Morning Edition that in the upcoming defense budget battle each service branch is going to advocate for those programs that it believes is crucial to itself--to the detriment of the other branches. Although she provides plenty of evidence of the services advocating for themselves, she doesn’t provide much evidence the services will attack each other. The one expert who did say they would attack each other emphasized it would be in private.  Her other expert, former Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim, explicitly said they wouldn’t attack each other:

The difficulty is that each of the services feels very vulnerable for different reasons and therefore is making a case for why it should be spared more than the others without actually attacking the others.

We might even go further. As Sharon K. Weiner, an Associate Professor of U.S. Foreign Policy at the School of International Service at American University, once wrote:

The resource battles of the 1950s made the military keenly aware of the consequences of interservice rivalry.  Determined to minimize civilian interference in the future, in the 1960s the services developed routines that encouraged compromise and internalized dissent.* 

As we pointed out in a previous post, the effect has been very stable shares of the budget for each service. Maybe budget cuts will test those routines, but Martin seems to be jumping the gun at seeing signs it’s happening already. 


*Sharon K. Weiner, “The Politics of Resource Allocation in the Post–Cold War Pentagon,” Security Studies 5, no. 4 (Summer1996): 125.

Reader Comments (1)

J. D. Mateus is absolutely right -- the Services can't attack each other. Other than a certain sense of propriety in the Joint arena (many of the Service senior officers have been in joint positions, or can expect to go to joint positions along the line), they really know nohthing about each other, so they have no credibility in saying the nation can do without another Service's capability or capabilities. A Service may form a little cell to figure out what another Service is doing (that is, in formulating its forthcoming annual program, not past programs), but they would still be vulnerable to being misinformed, as, during the programming process, changes are frequent. A Service could complain to the Congress, but again, they have no credibility -- Congress is more interested in the details of what that Service is proposiing -- within the bounds of the President's budget submission -- than their views on someone else's program. In sum, the Services can only make their individual cases to what the Navy calls "The Third Floor" at the Pentagon (OSD). We know now they all have to present 5-10-15 percent cuts -- the question may then become what they try to "gold watch" if readers remember what that is all about.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHank Gaffney

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