During a panel discussion among leading US defense experts at AEI on Thursday morning, Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center stressed that there is remarkable consensus across both sides of the isle regarding how the Pentagon should best manage the current drawdown. The question, however, is whether military and civilian leaders will use tighter budgets to enact structural reform or continue to kick the can down the road. Clark Murdock of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued that the US military is facing a "double whammy" of budget cuts and internal pressures driven by overhead and personnel cost growth, which is hollowing out the defense budget from within and reducing the purchasing power of the US Department of Defense.
Major General Arnold Punaro (ret.) stressed that the Pentagon is facing three "ticking time bombs" associated with internal cost growth. Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments stressed that reforms need not consist of "all pain, no gain." For instance, the Pentagon could implement military compensation changes for future enlistees that would maximize the value of those benefits to service members and their families. Panelists concluded that with or without sequestration, the defense drawdown is staying in place for the foreseeable future. Pentagon leaders should therefore use this as an opportunity to reduce bureaucracy, overhead, and excess infrastructure.
America's military drawdown is well underway. For years, the Pentagon has been cutting capability and capacity, scaling back war plans, absorbing ever more efficiencies, canceling weapons systems, and reducing readiness in response to roughly $1 trillion in defense budget cuts before sequestration. The onset of sequestration means that this approach is no longer feasible.
How can Pentagon leaders better target reductions to address structural drivers of military spending while prioritizing national security imperatives? In a new AEI paper, Mackenzie Eaglen argues that Pentagon officials must reduce costs by shrinking the civilian and military bureaucracies, reducing overhead, and eliminating excess infrastructure. At this event, AEI’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies will host a panel of defense experts to discuss the right and wrong ways to further cut the defense budget.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.