“If the picture was gloomy before, the clouds just got darker,” said Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “Hagel’s just been recruited to be a front man for further budget cuts.” WPNotice the identification of defense budget cuts with gloom. Isn't that a bit odd? The US is nearing the end of its decade (plus) of big wars although it will continue to be engaged in conflicts medium and small for quite a while (depends on the size of the post 2014 Afghanistan deployment, Syria, Mali, etc.) Those with Canadian backgrounds may think of the Canadian Forces's decade of darkness, but the kinds of cuts the US is facing is nothing like what the CF faced. Any cuts the US military faces will be cuts on future growth and cuts to some entitlement programs with modest cuts to the size of the forces. If we have to cut numbers, it is because the stuff we are buying is much more expensive per unit--and that is a choice.
I tweeted that we do not consider peace to be a gloomy time, but the US may be returning to the the good old days of the 1990s where interventions occurred sans seemingly endless counter-insurgencies.
Anyhow, for whom is this a gloomy time?
- Defense contractors? Certainly, as they lived high off the hog for quite a while, where the Pentagon's spending was unconstrained. But the contractors will still do very well in a post-Afghanistan world--there will still be plenty of defense dollars to go around, just not as much as the roaring Aughts.
- Politicians? Yes, this is a gloomy time for these folks, as hard choices are ahead and they will want to use the Pentagon as a jobs program even though most studies (all?) show that government spending on other parts of the budget (yes, the self-interested Spew-ster will mention that education gets better multiplier effects) help to create/maintain jobs better than defense spending.
- Defense analysts? No. There is plenty of work to be done analyzing tradeoffs and making assessments. In times of huge spending, there really is not much to say compared to how many pages can be written to defend one program at the expense of another. So, Donnelly should be thrilled to see budget cuts ahead--it will give him far more meat to chew on and far more opportunities to get his opinions into the mainstream press. Hard choices mean more interesting politics, and that is good for those who are observing and commenting.
* I feel better about my old crush on Andrea McArdle now that I realize that she is a couple of years older than me.