Thursday, December 30, 2004


NYT: Pentagon Said to Offer Cuts in the Billions.

As promised here at Garfield Ridge earlier this week, I mentioned that there would be big news coming out of the Pentagon in the coming months.

Well, never underestimate the temptation of the unauthorized leak to the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 - The Pentagon plans to retire one of the Navy's 12 aircraft carriers, buy fewer amphibious landing ships for the Marine Corps and delay the development of a costly Army combat system of high-technology arms as part of $60 billion in proposed cuts over the next six years, Congressional and military officials said Wednesday.

The proposed reductions, the details of which are still being fine-tuned and which would require Congressional approval, result from White House orders to all federal agencies to cut their spending requests for the 2006 fiscal year budgets, which will be submitted to lawmakers early next year.
Given that I know many of the specifics of the proposed changes, I won't confirm them. However, I will say that the NYT piece certainly captures the scope of what's being contemplated.

$10 billion next year, out of a budget request of over $400 billion, may not sound like a lot,but the NYT article says most of those cuts would come from the DoD's investment accounts, i.e., out of the development of future programs. Given the NYT-provided number of $78 billion in those accounts, that's a pretty big proportion.

My personal opinion? Well, going only on what one can read here, I'd say this is a prudent, yet risky step.

First off, the money has to come from somewhere. And like the old line explaining why you rob banks, the budget cuts pretty much have to hit the Pentagon by default, as it's the single largest slice of discretionary funding in the federal budget.

Second, there's a war on. Any Pentagon cuts can't come from the operations & maintenance accounts, and given the recruiting strains, they definitely can't come from the military personnel accounts. That leaves the investment budget as the only possible source.

That's when you get into some major league horse trading. Any program that gets cut, or even cancelled, has its defenders in the Building. And, just because a program gets cut doesn't mean it's a bad program, one that deserved it. In difficult budget drills, when you can't have everything you want, you often have to choose the least of all evils.

The possible cuts described in the NYT have some pretty strong arguments both in favor and against. If they hold true, I expect there to be much consternation, not to mention lobbying, over the changes. The Fiscal Year 2006 budget cycle on Capitol Hill promises to be among the most contentious since the Reagan buildup: major cuts to big defense procurements, more funding necessary for the war in Iraq, continued arguments over military end strength, some high-profile confirmation fights, and last but definitely not least, yet another round of base closures.

Boy, I'd hate to negotiate with Congress for a living; I don't envy the folks in the Pentagon at all.

Oh, wait, I forgot; that's my job.


P.S. Total nit, I know, but I deal with it every day in editing briefings and point papers: YOU DON'T CAPITALIZE CONGRESSIONAL! Unless you're yelling, as I just did.

It's "congressional," not "Congressional." You don't capitalize the adjective, just the proper noun, i.e. "Congress."

Sheesh, who's issuing the style guides at the New York Times? Do they even *have* an Ombudsman anymore?

I admit, I mangle the language with my abysmal writing. However, I expect nothing less than perfection from The Paper Of Record.

Buncha savages. . .

I can accept having less amphibious assault ships, so long as we have more super bombs to make up for it. "Well, we can't send any peacekeepers to Gonawanaland, but we can bomb the bejesus out of the place and hope for the best."
So does this mean you guys need to host a bake sale?

--See Dubya
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