State of Play
Executive: The Army has proposed cutting eight combat brigades and may eliminate another five as a result of changes in force structure. However, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno said the service may also have to cut an additional 100,000 soldiers if Congress fails to prevent sequestration cuts scheduled to take effect next year. Speaking at the Air Force Association’s annual symposium in Florida, Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz told the audience that further, tough budget decisions await the service in the coming years, whether as a result of sequestration, additional planned defense reductions, or the migration of billions of dollars from the OCO account back into the base budget. The service’s top training officer announced this week that the F-35A, stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, may be cleared for flight training within a matter of weeks.
The Defense Department is preparing for the President an analysis of military options for addressing the civil conflict in Syria. According to an unnamed administration official, the analysis will note that 75,000 troops would be required to secure Syria’s chemical and biological weapons stockpiles if their security became compromised due to domestic factors or international military intervention. The nation’s largest combat veteran organization, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, warned this week that the administration’s proposals to reform military pay and benefits would hurt military recruiting and retention – potentially leading to a return of the draft.
While attending a conference in London this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with her Pakistani counterpart and outlined a series of steps the United States would like to see taken in order to resume full diplomatic relations with Pakistan after a series of high-profile clashes between the two nuclear-armed states. And ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned visit to the United States next month, the Israeli leader has instructed his top officials not to discuss Iran’s nuclear program with the media.
In the latest GOP Presidential debate, candidates Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney all voiced support for a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program and the arming of Syrian opposition rebels. Governor Romney repeated his plan for expanding the military with, amongst other things, an additional 100,000 active duty troops.
Legislative: Both chambers were in recess this week but will return to session next week. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees will continue to hold hearings on the FY13 budget request, with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and General Schwartz scheduled to appear on February 28. Combatant commanders will also begin testifying on the Hill. (For a complete listing of HASC hearings, click here, and for SASC, here).
Defense Strategy Review: Why Deeper Defense Cuts Will Be on the Table in 2013
Charles Knight argues that, because of the political difficulties involved in raising new government revenues or reforming earned benefit programs, lawmakers may consider additional cuts to the Pentagon’s budget following this year’s elections. (2/24/12)
San Jose Mercury News: Defense budget cuts are far too timid
Instead of setting the Pentagon budget on a sustainable path forward, President Obama and Secretary Panetta have simply proposed slowing its growth. And the FY13 budget avoids making the tough decisions required of policymakers and instead continues development of Cold War-era systems like the next generation bomber and ICBM. (2/22/12)
Other News and Commentary
National Interest: A Radioactive Situation
Eric Margolis examines the technical challenges to eliminating Iran’s nuclear program by force, and the potential implications and repercussions that would result from a military strike. (2/24/12)
DoD Buzz: Army Could Cut Up to 13 BCTs
Although the Army has announced plans to reduce its end strength by eight combat brigades, that number may rise to thirteen due to organizational restructuring within the service. (2/24/12)
Huffington Post: Economic Consequences of War on U.S. Economy: Debt, Taxes and Inflation Increase; Consumption and Investment Decrease
A new report by the Institute for Economics and Peace finds that during or immediately after the major U.S. conflicts of the past sixty years, public debt, inflation, and levels of taxation increased as consumption and investment as a percentage of GDP decreased. Michael Shank points out that: “Excessive military spending can displace more productive non-military outlays in other areas such as investments in high-tech industries, education, or infrastructure.” (2/22/12)
By eliminating at least eight combat brigades, the Army has been able to protect its modernization budget and feels relatively comfortable that its combat vehicle strategy will remain intact. (2/22/12)
Early Warning Blog: If Unemployment Benefits Stimulate The Economy, What About Defense Spending?
Dr. Daniel Goure thinks it’s hypocritical for the White House to tout the stimulative effects of extending unemployment benefits as it presides over a declining military budget that will cause job losses in the industrial sector. (2/24/12)
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Strategic Revelation
Did the Obama Administration leak to the press the fact that it is considering nuclear weapons reductions of as much as eighty percent in order to make its final recommendation appear more moderate? John Isaacs thinks so and writes: “When the Obama administration finally makes its decision, it may have learned that while it will face the howls of outrage from the Republicans in the Turner and Kyl camps, the rest of the country might simply shrug.” (2/24/12)
The administration’s recently released budget would end procurement of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in three years. Some defense reduction advocates argue that the services should forgo procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and instead continue to rely on the Super Hornet. (2/23/12)
Council on Foreign Relations: Clear and Present Safety: The United States Is More Secure than Washington Thinks
Despite the hyperbolic rhetoric about threats to the United States’ security, Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen make the case in a new piece in Foreign Affairs that the world is geopolitically safer than it’s been in generations. Zenko writes: “The U.S. military is indisputably the most powerful in the world, and the U.S. economy remains the largest as well as among the most vibrant and dynamic. Rather than multitude of threats, the United States faces challenges such as climate change, pandemic diseases, economic instability, and transnational criminal networks that post little risk to most American citizens and can be managed with existing diplomatic, economic, and—to a much lesser extent—military tools.” (2/23/12)
Brookings: Cybersecurity and U.S.-China Relations (2/23/12)
Government Accountability Office: Afghanistan Security: Department of Defense Effort to Train Afghan Police Relies on Contractor Personnel to Fill Skill and Resource Gaps, Feb 23, 2012 (2/23/12)
Government Accountability Office: Warfighter Support: DOD Needs Strategic Outcome-Related Goals and Visibility over Its Counter-IED Efforts
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget: Primary Numbers: The GOP Candidates and the
Institute for Economics and Peace: Economic Consequences of War on the U.S. Economy (February, 2012)