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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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Anticipating the Next Battle

Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides addressed the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) March 15th to discuss the current state of the State Department after last year’s ‘hellacious’ budget battle.  Nides told the AFSA audience

For the first time we have a national security budget, which is really interesting, and one of the things that meant was to keep everything talked about national security.  That has been our theme for a long time.  You can’t just talk about the State Department or USAID as a development budget or a diplomacy budget.  It’s got to be about national security in an environment where money is tight….We have no choice if we want to sustain gains in which we achieved.

Nides’ perspective on the utility of lumping international affairs into the security budget is interesting but can’t be taken for granted.  Tempting though it is to include international affairs in a national security budget, that could jeopardize State and USAID accounts more than it protects them.  Also, it’s important to remember that the administration “requested” a national security budget but we don’t yet “have” one.  A review of the Budget Control Act will show that international affairs was included in the national security cap only until the super-committee failed, after which it defaulted back to its long-standing non-defense discretionary standing, at least until Congress acts on the President’s request.

None of this affects the merits of a unified security budget idea as Nides’ framed it, of course.  Indeed, our own Gordon Adams has recommended it.  And in the words of the Unified Security Budget Task Force, of which he is a signatory, it’s by this process that we can “improve the balance of our security spending portfolio while also cutting the deficit.”

Reader Comments (1)

There is never going to be a "national security budget" in the consolidated terms described in this article. That is, if anyone thinks the Congress will let an Adminsitration freely transfer funds from one of the accounts to another, they're dreaming. Already It takes legislative actions to reprogram anything above certain dollar thresholds within the existing 050 accuont. Right now, the Title 10, 22, and 50 accounts (there may be others as well) are all under separate legislation and, more importantly, appropriated by different subcommittees in the Congress. it is hard to believe the Congress would agree to consolidate all under one appropriations subcommittee. Indeed, if they did, there would be more lifting from the foreign assistance accounts in favor of defense accounts than the reverse. Nobody within any Administration is going to find it easy to simply transfer funds from one sub-title of a putative "national security account" to another. In short, there will be practically no flexibility to shift funds from defense accounts to foreign assistance accounts. No free dibs.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHank Gaffney
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