Numerous defense contractors have large bases in Virginia, resulting in the state's leadership scrambling in response to Secretary Gates's proposed measures to scale back the Defense Department's budget.
Today the U.S. government spends at least $2 billion annually to permanently station 28,500 American troops in South Korea. Less than half of this – 40 percent to be precise – is reimbursed by South Korea. This cost is attributed largely to the mission of deterring North Korea, but does not fully account for an able and fully equipped South Korean military force.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has thrown a curveball into the debate on the reduction of nuclear stockpiles by proposing that the U.S. government sell surplus uranium for a profit. In a new report, POGO is proposing to use a process called downblending to turn U.S. high grade enriched uranium (HEU) into low grade enriched uranium (LEU) and then sell the material as fuel for nuclear power plants. According to POGO’s estimates, the government stands to make a $23 billion profit.
The CATO Institute’s Benjamin Friedman and Christopher Preble released a report this week recommending significant defense budget cuts. Molded around a security strategy of restraint, Friedman and Preble find $1.2 trillion of savings between FY 2011 and 2020 by setting priorities.
Listening to President Obama’s speech at the UN and reading the new U.S. Global Development Policy, one cannot help but notice how similar the themes sounded to those of his predecessor. This suggests we may have entered an era when there is little political difference in how the parties approach development and when effectiveness and sustainability will trump faddish approaches . The real issues coming from this week’s announcements will be in the implementation and management, where the bureaucratic weeds can entangle any policy.
International leaders flocked to New York City this week for the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. Meeting Monday through Wednesday of this week, the summit served as an opportunity to “take stock” of the MDGs’ progress thus far on a global scale. The last review conference was in 2008. Moreover, in anticipation of the summit, ample research and evaluation of the goals’ status worldwide was executed by numerous organizations, including the UNDP and the Overseas Development Institute (funded partly by the Gates Foundation) among others.
Many would argue that the U.S. should sell military equipment, both the simple and the complex, only with a clear strategic purpose and to the most trusted of buyers. After all, a country’s approach to arms trading speaks volumes about its values and shapes the risks it faces internationally.
The United States expects to spend about $6 billion a year through 2015 training and supporting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) according to a NATO training document recently obtained by the Associated Press. Few are surprised that our economic commitment in Afghanistan will outlast major military operations. More concerning is the fact that the Pentagon had a specific cost estimate but opted not to disclose it to the American people, instead leaving it to media leaks.
Like all rationalizations, though, the Pentagon's annual China report is littered with uncomfortable irony.
Today’s Diane Rehm Show on NPR featured Gordon Adams, along with James Kitfield and Kori Schake, to discuss the nation’s debt, the pressures on the Pentagon to rein in defense spending, and the implications of the two on national security.
The United States “should level off, if not cut back, on intelligence.” Not what you’d expect to hear from former congressman Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission. But he’s right. The charge to Congress and the administration this September 11th is “less!” – less structure, less data, and less money.
The continuing quest for answers to how the United States can do a better job in operations like Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in a lot of bureaucratic soul searching, some actual changes and improvements, and lots of spilled ink. The QDDR and QDR continue to deal with the challenges of civ-mil coordination and interagency operations. It seems, sometimes, there’s nothing new left to be said. However, an article in Forbes online manages to demonstrate that absent leadership and real decisions on future structures and resources, there are still many bad ideas to be had.
The continuing reports on the difficulties of the transition from military to civilian responsibilities in Iraq expose several key issues that remain unaddressed. Others will write on the political situation, regional power struggles, the overall strategy, the risks of leaving (and of staying). The management challenges, however, are less understood and appreciated.
Eight former officials of the Defense Department or Coalition Provisional Authority currently are in federal prison for bribery, fraud, and money laundering in association with $96.6 million in Development Funds for Iraq that went missing in 2005. Last week the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported that the Pentagon cannot account for another $7.73 billion of these development funds, bringing the total to $8.7 billion.
“Your mission, should you decide to accept it” famously prefaced each of the mind-boggling tasks given to the Mission Impossible hero Jim Phelps. He, of course, always succeeded in his barely-possible work. Not to be outdone, a panel of defense experts will use a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday to assign the Pentagon a truly impossible mission set without even giving the American people a choice about accepting it.
The Transit Center at Manas, in Kyrgyzstan, is one of the lynchpins of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Established during the initial invasion, the Air Base serves as a major logistics hub for the entire war effort: it’s where most U.S. troops go before entering or leaving the warzone and it’s where the Air Force’s fleet of aerial fuel tankers is based. They are responsible for keeping aircraft flying over Afghanistan.
Sections of the recently released QDR independent review panel report sound an awful lot like what you might hear from the pinstriped crowd at Foggy Bottom:
Sunday, August 1st, Dr. Gordon Adams appeared on This Week in Defense News, hosted by Vago Muradian. Dr. Adams was joined by Todd Harrison from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments to form an expert roundtable to discuss the Defense Business Board report that recommended significant cuts to the defense budget. Click here to view the entire discussion.
On July 20, 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing titled, "Rethinking Our Defense Budget: Achieving National Security through Sustainable Spending." All witnesses but one emphasized the imperative need to understand, critique, and reign in defense budgets. Dr. Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute was the exception, and he expressed concern that a reduced defense budget would make the U.S. more vulnerable to the growing military strength of China and other foreign powers.
Much has changed since this panel first convened in February. Federal debt was already at historic highs and political support for counterinsurgency in Afghanistan was already falling, but awareness of and interest in these issues has boomed in the recent months. Most prominently, the appropriations committees in both chambers have reduced the President's defense request in just the past few days (House; Senate).
The panel, however, doesn't seem to have received this message. Instead, it doubled down on the basic weakness of the QDR itself by failing to prioritize missions, examine risk, or set any limits. Then, rather than justifying the claim that we need to be all things to all people, the panel simply asserts that outside forces strip us of our discretion and require this mission expansion.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This lack of planning and budgetary discipline ignores the country’s economic problems and flagging political support for high defense budgets. Now is the time to take a closer look at the military’s missions, make a realistic risk calculation and reshape a smaller and better tailored force. Not only can we do it, we must.
(For additional analysis, Dr. Christopher Preble from the Cato Institute and Sustainable Defense Task Force has a commendable post available here.)