No Time To Cut Defense

Source: Getty
Op-Ed Washington Post
Summary
It doesn’t make sense fiscally or politically; at a time when people talk of trillion-dollar stimulus packages, to propose a 10 percent cut from the defense budget, especially given the high price we will pay in America's global position.
Related Media and Tools
 

Pentagon officials have leaked word that the Office of Management and Budget has ordered a 10 percent cut in defense spending for the coming fiscal year, giving Defense Secretary Robert Gates a substantially smaller budget than he requested. Here are five reasons President Obama should side with Gates over the green-eyeshade boys.

 It doesn't make fiscal sense to cut the defense budget when everyone is scrambling for measures to stimulate the economy. Already, under the current Pentagon budget, defense contractors will begin shutting down production lines in the next couple of years -- putting people out of work. Rather than cutting, the Obama administration ought to be increasing defense spending. As Harvard economist Martin Feldstein recently noted on this page, defense spending is exactly the kind of expenditure that can have an immediate impact on the economy.

A reduction in defense spending this year would unnerve American allies and undercut efforts to gain greater cooperation. There is already a sense around the world, fed by irresponsible pundits here at home, that the United States is in terminal decline. Many fear that the economic crisis will cause the United States to pull back from overseas commitments. The announcement of a defense cutback would be taken by the world as evidence that the American retreat has begun.

This would make it harder to press allies to do more. The Obama administration rightly plans to encourage European allies to increase defense capabilities so they can more equitably share the burden of global commitments. This will be a tough sell if the United States is cutting its own defense budget. In Afghanistan, there are already concerns that the United States may be "short of breath." In Pakistan, the military may be tempted to wait out what its members perceive as America's flagging commitment to the region. A reduction in defense funding would feed these perceptions and make it harder for Obama's newly appointed special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, to press for necessary changes in both countries.

What worries allies cheers and emboldens potential adversaries. The Obama administration is right to reach out and begin direct talks with leaders in Tehran. But the already-slim chances of success will grow slimmer if Iranian leaders believe that the United States may soon begin pulling back from their part of the world. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's spokesman has already declared that the United States has lost its power -- just because President Obama said he is willing to talk. Imagine how that perception would be reinforced if Obama starts cutting funding for an already inadequately funded force.

Similarly, the Obama administration is right to want to begin negotiations with Russia over missile defense and arms control. But it is a poor opening gambit to announce a cut in American defense spending before negotiations even begin. If Russian leaders believe that the United States is looking for a way out of weapons systems -- missile defense in particular -- they will negotiate accordingly. They might ask why they should make a deal at all.

Cuts in the defense budget would have consequences in other areas of the budget, most notably foreign aid. Some Republicans have already begun to grumble about foreign aid and development spending. If the Obama administration begins by cutting defense, it will be much harder to persuade Republicans to support foreign aid.

Finally, everyone knows the U.S. military is stretched thin. Some may hope that Obama can begin substantially drawing down U.S. force levels in Iraq this year. No doubt he can to some extent. But this is an especially critical year in Iraq. The most recent round of elections is only one of three: District elections are in June and all-important parliamentary elections are in December. The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, is unlikely to recommend a steep cut with so much at stake.

Moreover, any reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq is going to be matched by an increase of forces in Afghanistan. The strain on U.S. ground forces, even with reductions in Iraq, won't begin to ease until the end of next year. And that assumes that the situation in Iraq stays quiet, that there is progress in Afghanistan, that Pakistan doesn't explode and that no other unforeseen events require American action.

At a time when people talk of trillion-dollar stimulus packages, cutting 10 percent from the defense budget is a pittance, especially given the high price we will pay in America's global position. The United States spends about 4 percent of GDP on defense. In 1962, the figure was 9 percent. Some unreconstructed anti-Cold Warriors from the 1980s may see the Obama revolution as a return to the good old days of battling against Ronald Reagan's defense spending. But that's not the way Barack Obama ran for president. He didn't promise defense cuts. On the contrary, he called for additional forces for the Army and Marines. He insisted that the American military needs to remain the strongest and best-equipped in the world. In his inaugural address, President Obama reminded Americans that the nation is still at war. That being so, this is not the time to start weakening the armed forces.
 

Click here to see this article as it originally appeared in the Washington Post.

End of document
 
Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2009/02/03/no-time-to-cut-defense/3cjd

In Fact

 

45%

of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.

30%

of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.

140

charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.

2.5–5

thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.

92%

of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.

$2.34

trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.

37%

of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.

72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
 
 
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
 
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.

请注意...

你将离开清华—卡内基中心网站,进入卡内基其他全球中心的网站。