At Foreign Policy’s “Situation Report“:
People don’t get how much fiscal trouble the Pentagon is actually in. Sequestration ain’t nuthin’. The real problem stems from the Pentagon’s internal cost growth, which has been hollowing out the force for decades. While that realization is not new — the cost of personnel, health care, operations and maintenance, and acquisition has been raising the price tag for defense for decades — it’s now forcing the Pentagon to make choices between end strength and modernization, says CSIS’s Clark Murdock.
“The reason why the Pentagon has been screaming about the catastrophic effect of sequester dollars is because it really will have catastrophic effects because it’s exacerbated by the effects of the internal cost inflation,” Murdock tells Situation Report.
What does he mean? The combination of the $487 billion the Pentagon must cut between now and 2021 and the additional $500 billion in cuts it will need to make if sequestration happens in January alone represents a 31 percent reduction in Pentagon spending. That is not as large a decrease as other drawdowns (36 percent after the Cold War, 33 percent after Vietnam, and 43 percent after Korea); but in combination with the rising internal costs the Pentagon confronts, taxpayers are paying way more for much, much less.
“We’re paying more for a smaller force,” Murdock says. So what would seem like a reasonable post-war cut is actually far more bloody. “What looks like only a 30 percent drawdown is really more like a 50 percent drawdown…. Plus the dollar is weaker.”
What to do? Murdock isn’t the only one to see the sky falling. But the demand now is to find a way to develop a national security strategy the U.S. can actually pay for. That means determine the topline then decide what the strategy is. And if that Pentagon requires modernization, and it always will, a significant reduction in the size of the force is required. To Murdock, who has been around the defense block for years, that means saying good-bye to 455,000 troops and putting DOD’s end strength at a svelte 845,000. That, he says, is required to maintain a modernization budget of around 32 percent of overall spending. But getting the Pentagon’s modernization budget back to that level will force not only that huge reduction in size of the force, but a major recalibration of its defense posture, Murdock says.
“We’re getting into an era, because of internal cost growth, where you really do have to make zero-sum choices between how much equipment you have, how many people you have, and what strategy you can pursue.”..
Might some of those considerations be relevant for the Canadian Forces too?
Can the CF “maintain its expeditionary capabilities across all three services: army, navy and air force”?
[trying to maintain those capabilities appears to be the government’s–and CF’s– only “strategy”, other than “Arctic sovereignty” hoo-hah]
Finally the Truth: “Canada First Defence Strategy” Just a Scrap of Paper
Canadian Joint Operations Command Activated/Canadian Forces’ Budget Issues
Andrew Godefroy - The wages of peace: lean times ahead for Canada’s military
Canadian Defence Budget: Oh, Oh
Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger
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