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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.
Gordon Adams, Stimson Center
Todd Harrison, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
Clark Murdock, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Major General Arnold Punaro (ret.), Punaro Group
Mackenzie Eaglen, AEI
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Gordon Adams is a professor in the US Foreign Policy Program at the School of International Service at American University. He is also a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center. He was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and, for seven years, a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and director of the school's Security Policy Studies Program. For five years, he was associate director for national security and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, which is the senior White House budget official for national security. He has been an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and received the US Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Adams's most recent book (with Cindy Williams) is “Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays for Its Global Role and Security at Home” (Routledge, 2010). He has published books, monographs, and articles on defense and national security policy, the defense policy process, and national security budgets. He appears regularly in the media and has testified numerous times before the Congress on defense spending and national security issues. He writes regularly for the National Journal, Foreign Policy, and the Will and the Wallet.
Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI. She has worked on defense issues in the US Congress — both in the House of Representatives and Senate — and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She specializes in defense strategy, budget, military readiness, and the defense industrial base. In 2010, Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess the Pentagon's major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense-related issues, she has also testified before Congress.
Todd Harrison joined the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) in 2009 from Booz Allen Hamilton, where he supported clients across the US Department of Defense, assessing challenges to modernization initiatives and evaluating the performance of acquisition programs. He previously worked in the aerospace industry developing advanced space systems and technologies and served as a captain in the US Air Force Reserves. Since joining CSBA, Harrison has authored a number of publications on trends in the overall defense budget; modernization initiatives; the defense industrial base; military personnel costs; and the cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. He frequently contributes to print and broadcast media and has appeared on CNBC, CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera English, and Fox News. He has been a guest lecturer for a number of organizations, including Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, the US Army's School of Advanced Military Studies, and the National Defense University.
Clark Murdock is senior adviser for the Defense and National Security Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and director of the Project on Nuclear Issues. Having joined CSIS in January 2001, Murdock has completed studies on a wide range of defense and national security issues, including strategic planning, defense policy and governance, and US nuclear weapons strategy and policy. He directed the four-phase study on US Department of Defense reform titled “Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: USG and Defense Reform for a New Strategic Era,” which released reports in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. Murdock is currently leading several “track two” dialogues on nuclear policy issues: one involving the United States, United Kingdom, and France, and the other involving the United States, South Korea, and Japan. He has also recently completed studies on methodological approaches to building force-planning constructs and on nuclear posture implications of US extended deterrence and assurance. He is the principal author of “Improving the Practice of National Security Strategy: A New Approach for the Post–Cold War World” (CSIS, 2004) and “The Department of Defense and the Nuclear Mission in the 21st Century” (CSIS, 2008). He also coauthored “Revitalizing the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent” (CSIS, 2002) and “Nuclear Weapons in 21st Century U.S. National Security” (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2008).
Major General Arnold Punaro (ret.) is CEO of the Punaro Group LLC, a Washington, DC-based firm offering business development, strategic planning, federal budget and market analysis, communications, crisis and emergency management, government relations, and sensitive operations consulting. A retired US Marine Corps major general, Punaro is also former executive vice president at the Science Applications International Corporation. Punaro serves on several independent defense advisory panels, including as chair of the Reserve Forces Policy Board and the Defense Business Board, where he chaired a 2010 task on reducing US Department of Defense overhead. Punaro is the recipient of numerous recognitions including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. He has over 20 military awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal as well as numerous civic awards.