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Cutting Defense: Is Bob Gates Behind the Curve? September 7, 2010

Posted by Gordon Adams in Analysis.
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This post by Gordon Adams originally appeared on Capital Gains and Games and is reprinted here.

By now much virtual ink has been devoted to the “cuts” that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proposes in the defense budget and defense programs.  These have been treated as a clear statement of intention that DOD will contribute to the overall effort at restraining federal spending, the deficit, and the growing national debt.

In reality, the Gates strategy does not make any contribution to restraining federal spending or reducing the deficit.  And in trying to avoid cutting his budget, he is putting the Pentagon behind the curve in the growing effort to discipline the federal budget and on a collision course with other parts of federal spending and revenues.

The Gates “cuts” are nothing of the sort.  He has, to be sure, pushed hard inside the Pentagon to focus on priorities, eliminate hardware programs like the F-22 and the Army’s vehicle program (the “Future Combat System)”.  In August, he announced plans to close the Joint Forces Command in Virginia, trim other headquarters, reduce the number of military flag officers, reduce spending on contractors, and find other efficiencies in DOD. (more…)


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:

Defense Cuts Must Be on the Table: A Series of Analyses June 25, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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Stephen Walt’s recent blog piece asks many thoughtful questions about how the defense and international affairs budget – and our national security – might be affected given the austere fiscal environment of the upcoming year.

Budget Insight has provided several analyses on this and other related subjects, including:

Secretary Gates and Disciple at DOD– Dr. Gordon Adams warns of the two tsunamis bearing down on the Pentagon: 1) historic levels of deficits and US debt and 2) the departure of the US military from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Concerns about deficits and debt coupled with a shrinking presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will pull the rug out from under public support for what has been an undisciplined military budget.

Disciplining defense while supporting the troops– Dr. Gordon Adams and Matt Leatherman explain why defense spending is at the crux of the politically difficult decisions needed to bring sustainability back to Washington.

The Long Term Debt Threat: Virginia Woolf Syndrome– Rebecca Williams and Matt Leatherman describe the long-term, unsustainable path of U.S. federal spending and its affects on the defense and international affairs budgets.

Adams weighs in on the QDR– Dr. Gordon Adams offers his critiques of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), arguing that the QDR does not prioritize the military’s missions and objectives.  As result, the QDR does not provide a true defense strategy.  Instead, it layers new missions on top of preexisting ones.

The Long Term Debt Threat: Virginia Woolf Syndrome? April 14, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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by Rebecca Williams and Matt Leatherman

English novelist and essayist Virginia Woolf famously ended her life in 1941 by filling the pockets of her overcoat with stones and walking into the River Ouse, drowning herself.

Congress members and administration officials, it seems, have adopted a similarly destructive resolve, walking with purpose and determination into a river of debt.

The numbers are clear and experts agree: the US federal budget is on an unsustainable long-term path.

The federal government continues to run large annual deficits, borrowing at an annual rate of more than $1 trillion.  Debt reached the largest percentage of GDP – around 10% – since WWII in FY 2009.  The economic downturn and the federal government’s stimulus packages offered in response have made these fiscal challenges even greater, and the aging American population and its draw on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid funds further complicate budgetary projections in the out years.  Absent significant policy changes, the GAO projects that US debt will grow to 100 percent of GDP by 2018.

Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke, speaking before the Dallas Regional Chamber last week, warned, “To avoid large and unsustainable budget deficits, the nation will ultimately have to choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above. These choices are difficult, and it always seems easier to put them off — until the day they cannot be put off any more.”

Chairman Bernanke’s assessment is correct.  Not only are the choices difficult, they become progressively more complicated the longer they are deferred.  The further we walk into this river, the harder it becomes to empty the stones from our pockets and turn back. (more…)

A Larger Deficit and National Security Spending August 27, 2009

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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OMB released its Mid-Session Review (MSR) earlier this week, which updates the administration’s economic forecast and budget projections.  The MSR projected a smaller 2009 deficit than was believed in May, totaling $1.58 trillion or 11.2 percent of GDP, down from the previous projection of $1.84 trillion, or 12.9 percent.  The projected lower deficit principally reflects the removal of a placeholder for further financial stabilization efforts.  This is, nonetheless, the highest federal budget deficit as a percentage of GDP since World War II. (more…)