Not surprisingly, anxiety about government spending is resulting in increased scrutiny of the defense budget. The Senate Armed Services committee emphasized the need for procurement reform at the Department of Defense (DoD) last week, and Josh Rogin at CQ reports that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is also demonstrating their concern (and not just by issuing ethics waivers) by giving the Pentagon a $527 billion limit, excluding war costs. While the number reflects an
eight 2.7 percent increase from their FY2009 budget, it is significantly lower than the 2010 budget request compiled last fall by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, resulting in some declaring the proposed budget to be a "cut." And in more budget news, the Washington Post reported that DoD's Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report indicates that Defense Secretary Robert Gates "has formally adopted the concept that national security planning and budgeting cannot be done by the Pentagon alone" and that other agencies need to be involved.
Talking to people familiar with the budget process, they emphasized that real reform is going to take more than changing the players in the budget process. Instead, it will require both President Obama and Secretary Gates to make and enforce a clear commitment to cuts--and not allowing managers at the Pentagon to go to Congress to thwart their efforts. On the latter point, Rogin reports that a spokesman for the Republican leadership of the House Armed Services Committee is ready to fight Obama on the issue.
Still, Noah Schachtman at Wired's Danger Room blog thinks that this is consistent with real "rumblings" for major cuts to defense programs. Gates also insists that the defense spending spigot is closing, but we can't help but remember that there are still many who insist that defense spending walks on water.
-- Mandy Smithberger