The Kettering Foundation hosted actors from both the public and private sectors at the National Press Club last week to address our nation’s debt problem. Among the panelists was our own Gordon Adams to offer his perspective on the political challenges of dealing with defense spending in an environment of fiscal constraint:
Policy makers, even those within DoD, are terrified to discuss the fiscal dilemma we face. The reality is defense budgets go up and then defense budgets go down. Public officials need to understand and embrace this. We are currently undergoing the fourth significant drawdown since the Korean War…. But bureaucrats will fight for their budgets, and DoD is and always will be fighting for their budget share—even during a builddown.
While there was a general consensus among the panelists (as well as among most in Washington) that action to address the national debt will not take place until after the November elections, few offered any practical alternatives to get our fiscal house in order. Yet, Adams’ observations of the political barriers to reining in spending carry resonance beyond November.