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The American Military is Already Doing More with Less

The country does need to get its fiscal house in order, but not on the backs of the military.

12:20 PM, Jul 23, 2010 • By GARY SCHMITT
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Secretary Gates, it is said,  is trying to head off major cuts in defense spending by emphasizing his efforts to gain greater efficiencies in Pentagon operations—showing that the Defense Department is not some sinkhole of wasted federal dollars. But, of course, it was the secretary who, in earlier speeches, seemed to suggest just the opposite by calling the Pentagon a “puzzle palace” and recalling Eisenhower’s fears of an out-of-control military-industrial complex. 

A much better strategy would be to remind everyone that the current planned force structure is largely one put in place by a Democratic administration (Clinton), reaffirmed by a Republican (Bush), and recently reaffirmed by a new administration (Obama) in its Quadrennial Defense Review. There has been a broad, post-Cold War consensus that the United States needs a military at least as large as the one it currently employs—and this even before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  What members of Congress ought to be doing (especially Republicans who claim to be serious about national security) is asking how the administration plans to maintain the forces it says the country will need in the future with the zero-growth Pentagon budgets it has put forward?  And, if it can’t, what does this mean for America’s long-standing posture of global leadership, our commitments abroad and our ability, as the Bush administration put it, to “promote a balance of power that favors freedom”? 

Gary Schmitt is director of AEI’s Program on Advanced Strategic Studies.

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