Defense: Strategy Based Budget or Budget Based Strategy?
Speaking at a press conference on June 29, 2011, President Obama said he was ready to cut more than $400 billion from the Defense budget.
“…We’ve identified what defense cuts are possible…”
“…I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to have difficult conversations with the Pentagon saying, you know what, there’s fat here; we’re going to have to trim it out. And Bob Gates has already done a good job identifying $400 billion in cuts, but we’re going to do more. And I promise you the preference of the Pentagon would not [be] to cut any more, because they feel like they’ve already given.” [i]
On July 31, 2011, the White House released a Fact Sheet on the debt limit increase, reflecting an agreement to reduce the base Defense budget by $350 billion and to tie a potential cut of $500 billion more to the failure of a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Committee to reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion.[ii]
Press Secretary Jay Carney conducted a Press Briefing on January 3, 2012, in which he indicated that:
“…I think it’s important to point out that the cuts in defense spending that we’ve discussed around which the defense strategic review is being written about now were agreed to on a broadly bipartisan basis — roughly $489 billion over 10 years.
“And the important part of this process is that the strategy come first and the reductions come — are driven by the strategy.”[iii] (Emphasis)
Two days later, on January 5, 2012, the President conducted his own Press Conference at which he repeated Carney’s claim that:
“…spending over the coming decade — because the size and the structure of our military and defense budgets – have to be driven by a strategy, not the other way around.”[iv]
He went on to double down, saying that the resulting Defense budget would be announced in the coming weeks. These statements may sound logical and they would be, if they were believable. The budget should always be driven by the strategy and the strategy driven by the threat and projections of future threats.
But the administration’s statements are not believable. They are an absurdity and a contradiction on their face. The Administration announced a possible $400 billion in Defense cuts in June, 2011 and an actual $350 billion cut from the Defense base budget in July, 2011. Five months later, Carney briefs that they are writing a “Defense Strategic Review” around a bipartisan agreement to reduce Defense spending by $489 billion and then both Carney and the President, without so much as a red face, tell us that Defense cuts will be “…driven by strategy, not the other way around.”
Where is the inquiring mainstream media? The Administration tossed them a ground ball and still made a homerun! If this was a true strategic review, why wasn’t it done earlier as we prepared to leave Iraq? Why wasn’t it accomplished (or was it) as we prepared for the surge in Afghanistan? What would have happened if the “Strategic Review” reflected increased threats to the U.S.? Would Obama have increased the Defense budget?
[i] President Barack Obama, (June 29, 2011), White House web-site, Speeches & Remarks, Press Conference by the President, retrieved January 6, 2012 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/29/press-conference-president
[ii] White House Fact Sheet (July 31, 2011) White House web-site, Statements & Releases, Fact Sheet: Bipartisan Debt Deal: A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline, retrieved January 6, 2012 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/07/31/fact-sheet-bipartisan-debt-deal-win-economy-and-budget-discipline
[iii] Jay Carney (Jan. 3, 2012), White House web-site, Press Briefings, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 1/3/2012, retrieved January 6, 2012, from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/03/press-briefing-press-secretary-jay-carney-132012
[iv] President Barack Obama, (Jan. 5, 2012), White House web-site, Remarks by the President on the Defense Strategic Review, retrieved January 6, 2012 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2012/01/05/president-obama-speaks-defense-strategic-review#transcript