The Budget Control Act of 2011 caps FY 2012 spending for the security category at $684 billion. As OMB Director Jack Lew noted yesterday, this only “reduces discretionary security spending in FY 2012 by $4 billion as measured from FY 2011.” If those caps are extrapolated over the next ten years, $350 billion in savings could come from defense.
BFAD’s Gordon Adams wrote today that it is not surprising that Panetta and Mullen say they can live with the current cuts but couldn’t live with any more. And he provides some context by showing these deeper cuts really wouldn’t be that deep:
But from where I sit, the Department can also live with $900 billion in budget discipline. It is, after all, only 14% of the currently projected defense budgets over the decade, a more moderate build down than the one Secretary Panetta helped execute (though Secretary Cheney and Chairman Powell began it) in the 1990s.
In fact, from 1985 to 1998, defense spending (outlays) fell more than 35% in constant dollars. The force that remained, which was smaller, was also organized, coherent, and lethal. It was globally dominant and used Saddam Hussein as a speed bump in 2003.
But where the Pentagon has it right is in its calls to avoid sequestration, because sequestration does not allow for strategic decisions. As Adams continues:
What is not inevitable and not desirable, and here I agree with the Secretary, is an automatic sequester of Pentagon (or any agency's) funding, across the board.
That is what Gramm-Rudman-Hollings legislated for all discretionary budgets in 1985. It only actually happened once because a mindless, across-the-board cut is no way to manage a build-down.