By Nick Schwellenbach
Veteran national security reporter Yochi J. Dreazen wrote an in-depth piece in yesterday’s National Journal on the identity crisis facing the Pentagon as it tries to navigate budget cuts, or at least a flattening of its budget, in the coming years.
The article is behind a paywall, but I thought POGO blog readers would be interested in several paragraphs of the piece suggesting a common theme in the recommendations of many outside reviews of Pentagon spending.
All of the reviews recommend cuts to many bloated, technologically-complicated weapons systems being pursued by the Marine Corps, particularly the F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Here are the relevant paragraphs in Dreazen’s piece:
A bipartisan commission, led by former Clinton administration Budget Director Alice Rivlin and retired Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., released a report in November that calls for a five-year freeze on Pentagon spending with no adjustments for inflation. Their plan proposes scrapping three expensive weapons systems: the F-35 jet, the V-22 Osprey (a tilt-rotor aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, but is prone to crashes), and the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.
The recommendations came just days before the Obama-appointed debt commission, headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., released its blueprint calling for nonwar defense spending to be cut at the same rate as nondefense spending—returning it to 2008 levels by 2013 and constraining growth to half the rate of inflation until 2020. This plan would trim up to $100 billion from the Pentagon budget by 2015 by canceling one version of the F-35, as well as both the Osprey and the Marine fighting vehicle, among other cuts.
Adams, the former White House budget official, would chop even deeper. In a recent paper co-written with Matthew Leatherman, a research associate at the Stimson Center, he calls for hacking the Pentagon budget by 14 percent, or $788 billion, over the next seven years. Adams and Leatherman would achieve those savings by cutting 275,000 troops from the active-duty military’s current level of just under 1.5 million; drastically shrinking the number of U.S. forces in Europe and Asia; eliminating the F-35 and the Osprey; and reducing the Pentagon’s health care expenditures by passing on more of the cost to military retirees and their families.
A fourth proposal, by Brookings Institution national-security expert Michael O’Hanlon, argues for a 10 percent cut in nonwar defense spending, which would save roughly $60 billion a year. He proposes returning the active-duty Army and Marine Corps to their pre-September 11 levels; that would reduce both forces by 15 percent, or approximately 110,000 troops. Like the others, O’Hanlon’s plan targets the F-35, Osprey, and Marine vehicle. But he goes further, also recommending elimination of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, as well as of one of its 11 aircraft carriers.
Nick Schwellenach is POGO's Director of Investigations. Follow Nick on Twitter.