Pentagon Faces the Knife

At WSJ, “Savings Ordered Up, Spurring First Troop Cuts in Decades; Salvo in Budget War“:

In an early salvo in Washington’s battle over the deficit, the White House ordered the Pentagon to rein in its budget, a move that will force a sizable cut in overall troop numbers for the first time in two decades.

The surprise decision, which is designed to cut a total of $78 billion from the military budget in the next five years, shows how even the military isn’t immune from the political heat brought on by worsening U.S. fiscal woes. It also represents a setback for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had fought to stave off such an outcome.

We are having to tighten our belts,” Mr. Gates said Thursday.

The projected five-year budget outlined by Mr. Gates doesn’t include an actual decrease in the military budget. But it will stop growing by 2015. With salaries, health-care and fuel costs climbing every year, the Pentagon needs a 2% to 3% annual budget increase to avoid making cuts in programs.

Under Mr. Gates’s proposal, the Army and Marine Corps will shrink by up to 47,000 people, a reduction that comes on top of a 22,000 decrease already planned for the Army. Currently, the two services have about 772,000 members, with the last cuts to the Army and Marines coming after the 1991 Gulf War.

No new head-count cuts are planned for the Navy or Air Force, which recently underwent reductions.

By seeking long-term cuts in the Pentagon budget, the White House is taking on a Republican bastion and hoping to put the GOP on the defensive, especially tea-party-backed lawmakers who campaigned on slashing government spending.

RTWT.

Plus, Secretary Gates’ interview is excellent, especially at 5:00 minutes, the discussion of the defense budget in perspective (as a percent of total federal spending and of GDP); and also the later discussion on the Chinese challenge and DADT repeal.

RELATED: Gordon Adams and Matthew Leatherman, at Foreign Affairs, “A Leaner and Meaner Defense: How to Cut the Pentagon’s Budget While Improving Its Performance.”

Cross-posted from American Power.

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