Washington Post Quotes FPI Executive Director Chris Griffin on Defense Spending

In "Defending Defense Spending," Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin writes:

Christopher Griffin of the conservative Foreign Policy Initiative observes via e-mail, “The debate over defense spending is now focused on two figures: the $534 billion that President Obama has requested for the Defense Department in fiscal year (FY) 2016, and the $498 billion cap that the Pentagon faces under a law known as the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). A third number should be even more important, however: the $611 billion that former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates estimated the Defense Department will actually need in the coming fiscal year.” In short, the latter number is the number that a bipartisan array of experts, ex-secretaries of defense and military officials believe is the minimum needed to meet our defense needs. The gap we should focus on, therefore, is not the $36 billion above the BCA cap but the $77 billion below the minimally acceptable budget.

Griffin explains the “stunning” gap between what the president’s budget will pay for and what is needed:

Broken down across the services, the magnitude of the shortfalls contained in the President’s budget request is stunning: Compared to Secretary Gates’ estimate ($611B), the President’s proposal would cut $18.1 billion in personnel funding next year. The Army has been particularly hard hit, and is on course to shed almost 100,000 soldiers since Secretary Gates submitted his last budget. The Marine Corps will have fallen 10 percent since the BCA came into effect.

Modernization budgets will suffer an even larger cut under Mr. Obama’s proposal, falling $29.2 billion short of Secretary Gates’ estimate. This at a time that the Army has halted almost all of its modernization efforts, the [Navy] has cancelled or postponed seven new ships over the past four years, and the Air Force is flying 12 fleets of aircraft that would qualify for antique license plates in Virginia.

Mr. Obama’s proposal would shortchange operations and maintenance funding by $6.6 billion compared to the Gates estimate.  This funding is essential to maintain the readiness of our troops, especially after the services survived a first round of sequestration by canceling billions of dollars in maintenance and training events.

As the chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all testified last week, the deep defense cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act are a strategic disaster that are putting the lives of Americans at risk.

Certainly, there are reforms in a variety of areas (procurement, health care) from which we could obtain savings. The bipartisan National Defense Panel found that such reforms “will save somewhere between six and ten billion dollars per year. This is a reasonable estimate. Certainly, achieving such savings and then capturing them for other uses by the Department is a worthwhile goal, but it is no substitute for increasing the topline in the way [the Gates budget recommended].” Ironically it is the BCA that prevented some reforms from being undertaken, specifically in the compensation realm.

The NDP recommends, for example, adoption of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission report. It also recommends, “The Defense Department must develop an acquisition reform plan that builds upon decades of solutions and establishes a clear roadmap to improve its policies and practices for both budgetary and modernization reasons. The nation cannot continue to spend huge amounts of money with insufficient returns or advantage to our Armed Forces.”

The NDP also observes that base closings at home (to which Congress routinely objects to keep money in members’ districts) need to be part of the solution. It cautions, however, that “cutting more bases overseas is not the solution. We note the Department is down to a bare-bones infrastructure already in key regions like Europe. The Army alone has already closed 100 installations in Europe since 2003 and plans on returning an additional 47 bases to host nations by 2015. Similarly, the Navy has been consolidating and shrinking its European bases over the last eight years . . . . The Air Force has reduced aircraft and forces stationed in Europe by 75 percent since 1990.”

Finally, “Additional changes are required to right size the civilian Defense Department and federal contracting workforces. Pentagon civilians have continued to grow even after the active duty forces have been shrinking for some time. ”

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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