The Politics of Fleet Constitution

Galrahn. Information Dissemination, 27 March 2012.


The Navy has put 7 cruisers up for early retirement. Keep in mind that all 7 cruisers put up for early retirement in FY13 and FY14 are capable of being modernized for ballistic missile defense…It is fairly obvious to this observer that the Navy put these cruisers on the chopping block precisely because they expected Congress to swoop in and save the 6 cruisers the Navy wants to save, and allow the Navy to dump the amphibious ships and no one will care. Cruisers are shiny toys that represent power projection, and these specific cruisers have a significant future ahead of them if the money was to be found and made available for the US Navy to keep them.

The Future of Irregular Warfare

Seth G. Jones. RAND, 27 March 2012.


By early 2012, there were approximately 432,000 counterinsurgency forces in Afghanistan – approximately 90,000 U.S. soldiers, 30,000 NATO soldiers, 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces, and 12,000 Afghan Local Police. In addition, the United States spent over $100 billion per year and deployed a range of sophisticated platforms and systems. The Taliban, on the other hand, deployed between 20,000 and 40,000 forces (a ratio of nearly 11 to 1 in favor of counterinsurgents) and had revenues of $100-$200 million per year (a ratio of 500 to 1 in favor of counterinsurgents).

U.S., Australia to broaden military ties amid Pentagon pivot to SE Asia

Craig Whitlock. Washington Post, 26 March 2012.

from the Washington Post


The United States and Australia are planning a major expansion of military ties, including possible drone flights from a coral atoll in the Indian Ocean and increased U.S. naval access to Australian ports, as the Pentagon looks to shift its forces closer to Southeast Asia…

Support in U.S. for Afghan War Drops Sharply, Poll Finds

Elisabeth Bumiller and Allison Kopicki. New York Times, 26 March 2012.


The latest New York Times/CBS News poll…found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict.

Throwing Money at the Pentagon: A Lesson in Republican Math

William Hartung. Foreign Policy in Focus, 26 March 2012.


Romney’s proposal implies that the Pentagon is essentially an entitlement program that should receive a set share of our total economic resources regardless of what’s happening here at home or elsewhere on the planet. In Romney World, the Pentagon’s only role would be to engorge itself. If the GDP were to drop, it’s unlikely that, as president, he would reduce Pentagon spending accordingly.

Talking About Talks: Toward a Political Settlement in Afghanistan

International Crisis Group. Asia Report N°221, 26 March 2012.


A negotiated political settlement is a desirable outcome to the conflict in Afghanistan, but current talks with the Taliban are unlikely to result in a sustainable peace. There is a risk that negotiations under present conditions could further destabilise the country and region. Debilitated by internal political divisions and external pressures, the Karzai government is poorly positioned to cut a deal with leaders of the insurgency. Afghanistan’s security forces are ill-prepared to handle the power vacuum that will occur following the exit of international troops. As political competition heats up within the country in the run-up to NATO’s withdrawal of combat forces at the end of 2014, the differing priorities and preferences of the parties to the conflict – from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership to key regional and wider international actors – will further undermine the prospects of peace. To avoid another civil war, a major course correction is needed that results in the appointment of a UN-mandated mediation team and the adoption of a more realistic approach to resolution of the conflict.

Pentagon Base Budget to Get Bigger Share in 2013

Carl Conetta. PDA Briefing Memo #54, 23 March 2012.

On 13 February 2013, President Obama put down the administration’s marker in the budget debate for 2013. The President’s request proposes a budget pie about as large as the one adopted in 2008. However, comparing the 2013 request to the sum appropriated in 2008 shows that the Pentagon is being offered a bigger slice this time around.

• The administration’s budget request for FY 2013 rolls discretionary spending back to the level of 2008 in nominal terms.
• War spending is slated to decline substantially from the 2008 level. However, much of the savings is cycled back into peacetime security spending, which increases.
• Comparing 2008 and 2013 shows the budget plan to increase the proportion of non-war discretionary dollars devoted to National Defense – up from 50% to 52%.

Comparison of Discretionary Spending Allocation – 2008 vs 2013 Request
(billions of nominal dollars)
Photobucket Sources: See “Notes” at end.

“Security basket” gains ground

How does the President’s new budget reshape federal priorities?

This is best understood by comparing it to the 2008 budget, which was the last budget fully enacted before President Obama took office. Also, the 2013 budget request approximately rolls back discretionary spending to the 2008 level in nominal terms. (If we take inflation into account, there’s a real reduction; still, the nominal similarity of the two budgets helps us to discern the change in priorities, if any).

The table shows the differences in budget allocation between the 2008 budget and President Obama’s 2013 budget request. For there to be “real” (inflation-corrected growth) sums must rise by at least 8% from 2008 levels.

What do we see comparing the 2013 request with the 2008 appropriation?

• Discretionary spending declines, but this is due largely to the reduction in war spending. In fact, the decline in discretionary is not as great as the decline in war spending. Take war out of the picture and the result is that discretionary spending increases in nominal terms. (However, it does not increase as much as inflation for the 2008-2013 period, which is 8%.)

• Looking at the discretionary “Security Basket” as initially defined by the Budget Control
Act to include National Defense, International Affairs, Veterans, and Homeland Security, we see it growing by 12% – which exceeds the rate of inflation.

• Within the “Security Basket,” National Defense (mostly the Pentagon plus some weapons spending in the Department of Energy) grows by 10.3% – slightly more than the rate of inflation.

• By contrast, the “Non-security Basket” (which is everything else) declines by 3.2% in nominal terms – and by considerably more in “real” or inflation-adjusted terms

• As a result of these changes in allocation, “Security Basket” spending would grow as a proportion of all discretionary spending. National Defense spending, a subset of “Security,” would also grow proportionately.

In the President’s 2013 request, three members of the “Security Basket” get bigger shares than in 2008 and one sees its share decline. The winners are National Defense, International Affairs, and especially Veteran Affairs. The loser is Homeland Security.

A hypothetical alternative

What might have the FY 2013 budget looked like if the proportion devoted to defense and security had been held to their 2008 percentages?

• Using 2008 proportions, the 2013 “Security Basket” would be set at $677.4 billion, which is $35.9 billion less than actually requested.

• Using 2008 proportions, National Defense spending would be set at $532.4 billion – which is $18.4 billion less than planned. The Pentagon base budget is part of this and would be set at $508 billion, which is $17.5 billion less than actually requested.

• Had the “Non-security Basket” been held at its 2008 proportion, it would receive $381.1 billion, which is $35.9 billion more than requested in the administration’s budget. This amount has been moved from non-security to security funding.

Two provisos

There are two provisos to the above analysis:

First, the analysis assumes that war spending for 2013 will not rise before the fiscal year ends; and

Second, the analysis does not take into account the undue migration of approximately $4 billion in personnel costs from the base budget to the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. If we disallow this shift of base budget costs to the OCO account, the 2013 Pentagon request is not $525.4 billion, but $529.4 billion. And this implies a greater growth in the Pentagon’s budget slice than reported above.


Historical Tables, Budget of the United States Government – Fiscal Year 2013 (Washington DC: White House Office of Management and the Budget, 2013), Table 5.4 Discretionary Budget Authority by Agency 1976-2017

Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government – Fiscal Year 2013 (Washington DC: White House Office of Management and the Budget, 2013), Table 32-1 Policy Budget Authority and Outlays by Function, Category and Program.

Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government – Fiscal Year 2010 (Washington DC: White House Office of Management and the Budget, 2010), Table 26-1 Policy Budget Authority and Outlays by Function, Category and Program.

Pentagon Base Budget to Get Bigger Share in 2013

Carl Conetta. Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #54, 23 March 2012. A comparison of discretionary spending in 2008 and 2013 shows an increased tilt toward the “Security Basket” and National Defense.