It is Europe-bashing time again. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is the latest in a very long string of US officials to tee off on the Europeans for not "carrying their share of the defense burden." So easy for Americans to say, such an easy escape-hatch from our own economic and fiscal problems.
The reality is everyone's defense budget is coming down. And as they come down, it is important to remember that not everyone in the world agrees with the US view that we have a God-given mission to provide global military and counter-insurgency operations in pursuit of the chimera of "global security," least of all the Europeans. For more on my views, visit the national security experts blog of the National Journal, posted today.
As the defense budget creeps toward the table in budget discussions on the Hill, we are likely to be treated to more and more of a contest over cuts, savings, baselines, budget projections, and the like. There is no more fun, or frustrating game, than trying to peel away the numbers we get from DOD and get to a transparent reality of what is really going on.
Leon Panetta may be glowing with the success in Abbottabad, but he will have to turn to the challenge of the defense budget in short order. The House Armed Services Committee looks like it will push for as much funding as possible; Rep. Ryan ducked the issue in his budget resolution, but like the ghost of Hamlet's father, the problem will not go away.
For my views, read the op ed column I did for the Washington Post this morning.
As he approaches his retirement in September, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continues to speak the truth about our fiscal problems, their impact on the military budget, and the consequences of ten years of continuous growth in defense spending.
He spoke to the Government Executive media group on April 28 and made four critical points policy-makers need to pay attention to, as the Congress returns from recess.
First, he sees the nation's "debt as the single biggest threat to our national security," a point he has made before and one the Congress will be grappling with as they approach the next stage of the budget resolution, the proposals that may emerge from the Gang of Six, and the forthcoming debate over the nation's debt limit.
Updating my entry last Friday, we have recalculated the route to get to President Obama's proposed security spending reductions of $400 billion over twelve, yes, count them, twelve years. Not a great step forward, and well below what Simpson-Bowles, Rivlin-Domenici, or Frank-Paul proposed last year, in fact, roughly a third of what they called for.
If you go to the Stimson Center's Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense website, you will see our new calculation, based on the final FY 2011 budget agreement number for defense, which shows that maintaining DOD's buying power (increasing the budget every year by inflation) provides more than $428 billion in savings from the current DOD plan. If one left that $28 billion on the table, one could even claim DOD funding would grow after inflation (a teeny, tiny amount), and still achieve Obama's goal.