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Gordon Adams testifies before Tierney panel July 20, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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Gordon Adams testified today before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The hearing, titled “Rethinking our Defense Budget: Achieving National Security through Sustainable Spending,” features five experts accessing how the austere fiscal environment will affect the defense budget.

In his testimony, Dr. Adams warns of the looming tidal wave of deficit reduction, debt control, and changes in our international role which makes it increasingly urgent for the Congress to reexamine our defense budgets and defense priorities.  Highlights include:

  • Unprecedented defense budgets are a significant part of the federal spending problem. U.S. defense budgets have reached a level unprecedented since the end of World War II.  At $719 billion, fiscal year 2010 will be our most expensive year for national defense since the Second World War.  It is not an outlier.  Six of the ten most expensive years have registered in the past decade.
  • There is growing bipartisan concern about the level debt. Persistently high and growing federal debt has serious consequences for the economy.  Bipartisan reform efforts recognize that success in deficit reduction and debt control requires all parts of federal budgeting to be on the table, including revenues and spending of both the mandatory and discretionary types.  National defense cannot be exempt.
  • Fiscal concerns coincide with a significant change in the global security environment: the coming withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and, soon, from Afghanistan. The American public and the Congress supported unprecedented growth in the defense budget as we entered these two conflicts.  That process works in reverse as well.  Support for such high levels of defense will erode as our forces return.
  • Defense planning and budgeting have not responded to this reality.  In fact, the Pentagon has avoided prioritizing missions, calculating risks, and managing in a disciplined way.  It is increasingly critical to do so. Regaining fiscal balance, improving our economic health, and restoring our global role all hinge on it.
  • Discipline will be hard; half measures will not provide it. Given these pressures, greater defense planning and budgeting discipline is urgently needed.   Imposing that discipline will be difficult, however, because of mounting internal pressures for budget growth.  Half-measures, including the proposed shift of $100 million from the base budget to the war budget, will be insufficient to overcome this challenge.
  • The only way to cope with serious budget decline at the Defense Department is through greater discipline in defense mission planning.  The QDR does not prioritize missions but simply layers new missions on top of the old, sets no priorities, and advocates that risks should be reduced across the board.
  • The United States needs to redefine its global role and the supporting military missions. Dr. Adams suggested priorities for the Pentagon’s missions, emphasizing that the Pentagon has made no similar effort.  Setting priorities would lead to substantial reductions in the U.S. force structure, as well as significant savings in procurement and research on programs linked to lower priority missions.
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