National Defense Panel will be a natural rallying point…to derail the Gates train

And so the National Defense Panel will be a natural rallying point for the disparate forces on Capitol Hill and throughout Washington seeking to derail the Gates train. It will provide a vehicle not just for reviewing the termination of the F-22 and other major procurements but also for advocating a more meaningful commitment to irregular warfare by increasing the numbers of U.S. land forces. It would offset the twin Gates strategies of divide-and-conquer–playing off one procurement program against another–and pitting concerns about irregular and high-tech conventional warfare against each other in a zero-sum budget game.

As of today, the QDR is an exercise in putting strategic lipstick on a budget-cutting pig; it is part and parcel of the administration’s larger goal of fundamentally reordering federal priorities. At the end of eight years, if the White House has its way, the U.S. budget will ape those of most European countries: huge domestic entitlements, with a defense burden shrinking to or below 3 percent of GDP.

The proposed National Defense Panel could be a small but significant sign that some Democrats and Republicans are having second thoughts about this direction and are willing to challenge Gates’s aura of infallibility. If the Senate adds the National Defense Panel provision to the final defense bill, the stage will be set, if not for a battle royal, then at least for an honest debate about the country’s future defenses.

from Revolt of the Congress, by Tom Donnelly & Gary Schmitt, The Weekly Standard, 20 July 2009.

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