During the ongoing fight over the sequestration deal, I’ve said several times that I was okay with those cuts going through because it may be our only real opportunity to force reductions in defense spending. The New York Times reports that those cuts may be doing exactly what they should so, force the Pentagon to make some real structural changes.
But inside the Pentagon, even some senior officers are saying that the reductions, if done smartly, could easily exceed those mandated by sequestration, as the cuts are called, and leave room for the areas where the administration believes more money will be required…
Last week, a group of five former deputy defense secretaries — essentially the Pentagon’s chief operating officers — called for a “bottom up” review that reassesses the need for each major program and weapons system, saying this was an opportunity to accomplish cuts that have long been delayed, after a decade in which the American national security budget has nearly doubled.
In their more candid moments — almost always when speaking with a guarantee of anonymity — the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders acknowledge that the painful sequestration process may ultimately prove beneficial if it forces the Defense Department and Congress to reconsider the cost of cold-war-era systems that are still in inventory despite the many changes made to the military in the last 10 years.
“Sequester is an ugly experience, but it could grow up to be a budget discipline swan,” said Gordon Adams, a former senior budget official in the Clinton administration who is now at the Stimson Center, which studies defense issues. “It could provide the planning discipline the services and the building have been missing since 2001.”
The politics of this is very difficult to navigate, of course. The distribution of bases all over the country in different states and House districts and the massive influence of money from defense contractors makes it an uphill fight to make any serious reductions in defense spending. But the military leadership tends to be quite pragmatic and they recognize the need to spend money more intelligently in a way that politicians don’t.
We can start by canceling the contract for the F-35, which has been a giant boondoggle from the start.