Archive for the ‘Documents and Articles’ Category

Matthew Leatherman on Strategic Adjustment

July 2013

One of the Pentagon’s earliest and catchiest bumper-stickers for the automatic cuts of sequestration came from then-Secretary Leon Panetta during the first week of January 2012. If that cut arrived – as it did – the Pentagon would “probably have to throw that [strategy] out the window and start over.”

Eighteen months have come and gone with steady, uncomfortable murmuring about strategy but no definitive change. Most recent is Secretary Hagel’s July letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. This tension is a reminder that politics drive budgets, not just strategy.

Top-line budget request decisions belong to the White House and, like Congress’ defense committees, it has its own political reasons for not acknowledging sequestration. Even if the Pentagon wanted to submit plans for matching strategy to sequestration-level spending, it likely couldn’t – the political system will not accommodate that conversation right now. So strategy stays where it is, sure to adjust because of the size of the cuts but not yet adjusted.

This is less concerning than it might sound.

A rudimentary description of strategy would be that it is a statement of goals, an ordering of those goals by priority, and a cut line demarcating how far down the list the US can afford to go. When less money is available, the cut line moves up and fewer goals are financed. The priority order of these goals should not change, however. Priority #1 always gets bought and, in accounts as large as the Pentagon’s, priorities much further down the list are just as safe.

Under any resource circumstance, though, there comes a point at which the money goes no further. This can become a problem if things falling off the list are essential for national defense, if the priorities are ordered unwisely, or if the cuts aren’t made according to the list. Today’s problem isn’t the first – our national defense doesn’t hinge on the savings margins at play – and the second issue is subjective. Instead our consensus problem is that cuts aren’t being made according to the list.

Sequestration is the obvious example. Applying a formulaic cut across-the-board isn’t strategic. But it’s not the only example. Secretary Hagel’s letter forewarned that “cuts of that magnitude” place “at much greater risk the country’s ability to meet our current national security commitments,” overlooking that strategy-driven drawdowns aren’t about holding current commitments constant and accepting risk everywhere. To the contrary, they’re about raising the bar so that goals our strategy prioritizes are unaffected and goals that barely snuck into earlier budgets fall away.

The Budget Control Act and the dynamic it has fostered between Congress and the White House are about the politics of taxes and entitlement spending, not defense. Even the most astute, realistic strategy won’t change that, and various political pressures aren’t permitting adjustment of any kind. But the way ahead is much clearer than Panetta’s “throw it out the window” statement suggests, or even General Dempsey’s more recent comment about a “redo.” Once Congress and the White House make a decision on handling sequester and the federal debt ceiling, the Pentagon can give us a clearer sense of how it prioritizes goals from the 2012 strategic guidance and which of the lowest will fall away.

Matthew Leatherman is resident fellow at the International Affairs Council of North Carolina and former budget analyst at the Stimson Center, Washington, DC.

Reasonable Defense: A Sustainable Approach to Securing the Nation

(printable PDF version) (summary) (appendix of tables and charts) by Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report, 14 November 2012. Provides a detailed strategic argument for the re-balancing of investments in the instruments of national power and offers a new force posture and Pentagon budget appropriate to strategic conditions.  Main report includes 9 tables.  Appendix has 18 additional tables and charts addressing personnel, force structure, and budgets.

USA and Allies Outspend Military Rivals by Four-to-One: America Carries Heavy Defense Burden for Allies

Carl Conetta. PDA Briefing Memo #55, 18 July 2012.
http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/120717-US-world-military-spending.pdf

Efforts to cull savings from the US defense budget for purposes of deficit reduction have been stymied by Pentagon claims that any significant cut might have “devastating” or even catastrophic” effects. However, a review of global defense spending data by the Project on Defense Alternatives shows that America and its allies outspend potential rivals by a margin of four-to-one.

Moreover, according to the PDA review, the United States carries much more than its share of the allied defense burden, as measured by percentage of Gross Domestic Product allocated to defense. Together, the United States and its close allies worldwide spent $1.23 trillion on their armed forces in 2010 – more than 68% of the global total. But had the burden been shared equally among the allies based on GDP, the United States could have reduced its military spending by one-third (33%), including spending for war. This proportion substantially exceeds the Pentagon budget cuts mandated under the sequestration provisions of the Budget Control Act.

global military shares

Myths vs. Realities of Pentagon Spending

Stephen Miles and William D. Hartung. Center for International Policy Fact Sheet, 17 July 2012.
http://defensealt.org/NB2hfR

Pentagon_Budget_Fact_Sheet_

Excerpt:

Nearly all of the purported “cuts” to the Pentagon’s budget are actually reductions in the rate of growth, rather than true cuts in funding levels. In reality, even if sequestration is fully enacted as planned under the 2011 Budget Control Act, the Pentagon’s base budget would only return to 2006 levels (adjusted for inflation), which at the time was among the highest levels of spending since World War II.

The Pentagon has asked for $525 billion in funding for fiscal year 2013 — a reduction of only $6 billion from the current year. The Pentagon budget would then resume its upward climb, rising to $567 billion in 2017. As former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence J. Korb has noted, “even when adjusted for inflation, Panetta’s reductions halt the growth in the Pentagon’s budget, but they do not bring the budget down much from its current level.” And while Congress has yet to enact funding for fiscal year 2013, it appears ready to increase the Pentagon’s budget, replacing the Defense Department’s extremely modest reductions with another year of growth.

Current reductions must also be measured against the unprecedented growth in Pentagon spending over the past 13 years. Since 1998, the Pentagon’s base budget has grown by 54% (adjusted for inflation). Moreover, with the country turning the page on a long decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the planned reductions represent a historically small drawdown when compared with those following the end of Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

US and Allies Dominate Group of Top Military Spenders

Project on Defense Alternatives, 29 June 2012.

How much is enough spending for the Pentagon? By various measures, the United States has outspent the next nine, 14, or 21 countries combined. What is perhaps more telling is that most of those other countries are staunch US allies.

* International Institute for Strategic Studies
** Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
*** PPP = Purchasing Power Parity, a measure that facilitates international budget comparisons by adjusting exchange rates to reflect the relative domestic buying power of national currencies.

Notes: The IISS column presents officially reported spending in USD at 2010 exchange rates, with two exceptions: China and Russia. For these, the number is an estimate of actual spending. The second column is SIPRI’s estimate of actual expenditures, also shown in USD at 2010 exchange rates. The PPP column converts estimates of actual expenditures into approximate purchasing power, mostly drawn from SIPRI data. For China and Russia, it also shows an IISS estimate of purchasing power, thus producing a range. Purchasing power calculations improve on estimates that use exchange rates alone. However, PPP ratios are based on comparisons between national economies as a whole, not the defense sectors specifically. This can overstate military purchasing power when a nation’s military sector is much more advanced than its economy overall or when a nation depends heavily on international arms purchases.

Comments: The biggest spenders of concern to the United States are Russia and China, although neither are considered US adversaries today.
• America and its top spending allies outpace these two countries taken together by margins exceeding three-to-one.
• America alone spent more than twice as much as these two countries in 2010, by some measures. By other measures, it outspent them combined by nearly four-to-one.
The review draws on data compiled by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), both regarded as world leaders in the field of defense assessment.

Neither IISS nor SIPRI accept Chinese or Russian official defense budget numbers at face value. Their estimates seek to capture unreported military expenditure from other parts of the Chinese and Russian economy. Both also offer alternative estimates that aim to correct for exchange rate distortions when comparing nations at very different levels of economic development – although these corrections may somewhat over state the “purchasing power” of military budgets.

Differences in the IISS and SIPRI methods, and the difference between corrected and uncorrected exchange rate estimates, account for the range given in number of countries whose combined budgets equal that of the United States. The answer ranges from nine to 21 countries — and all but a few of these are US allies.

Sources: International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012 (London, 2012); Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2011 (Oxford, 2011).

HTML version of this table www.comw.org/pda/120618-Military-Spending-Comparison.html

The Pentagon Jobs Machine Is A Bust

A Project on Defense Alternatives Commentary, 26 June 2012.

After years of touting the necessity of guns over butter, the defense establishment has changed its tune. With the official US unemployment rate stuck at over 8 percent, Pentagon flaks are now boldly declaring that “guns are butter.” The Department of Defense as a social program? It’s a cynical ploy as William Hartung and Stephen Miles point out in this article.

Here are the Pros and Cons on the story:
• A National Association of Manufacturers study released last week says Pentagon cuts will mean substantial jobs loss in the defense sector.
• At the same time, cutting defense spending may be among the least painful ways to trim the Federal deficit. This two minute video by Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project explains why. His data is from a study by the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass.
• A $1 billion cut from the education sector will result in more than twice as many jobs lost as a $1 billion cut from the defense sector.
• We could cut $50 billion from the defense budget next year, put $25 billion to deficit reduction and put $25 billion into education and have a net increase of more than 20,000 jobs. That’s a win-win fiscal deal.

For more on Pentagon spending and jobs see this background compilation: The Pentagon Budget and Jobs.

Panetta explains Pentagon’s ‘pivot’ toward Asia

David Cloud. Los Angeles Times, 01 June 2012.
http://defensealt.org/NW22HP

Excerpt:

…the Pentagon plans to increase the Pacific fleet from 50 warships to 58, according to two Pentagon officials who discussed the plans on condition of anonymity.

In addition, Panetta said that more than 40 Navy ships in the Pacific would be replaced with “more capable and technologically advanced ships” over the next five years.

But the number of warships “forward deployed” at any one time — operating in Asian waters rather than moored in San Diego or other U.S. ports — will grow by only four, from 23 to 27, by 2020. The reason: It is far less expensive to base troops, ships and planes in U.S. ports than abroad.

The six aircraft carriers now assigned to the Pacific will drop to five later this year. An additional carrier, now under construction, is scheduled to enter the fleet in 2014, returning the number to six.

Several hundred Marines have begun rotating into northern Australia on a training mission, and the force may grow to as many as 2,000 by 2016. But U.S. troop levels in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere in the region are likely to remain flat.

Security and stability in Afghanistan: Progress and Risk

C.J. Radin. The Long War Journal, 08 May 2012.
http://defensealt.org/Je0Hex

Excerpt:

On May 1, the US Department of Defense (DoD) released its latest semi-annual report on security and stability in Afghanistan. The report documents significant progress in both developing the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and in degrading the Taliban insurgency. A thorough analysis also requires an evaluation of risk, however. While there is progress to report, it is important to note that there are also high, and increasing, risks.

DoD Semi-Annual Report on the Security and Stability of Afghnaistan, April 2012