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Economics, Security, Web Articles

Misperceptions, Part II: Defense Cuts, Strategic Deficiencies?

Posted: January 31, 2012 at 2:10 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

In the first post of this series I argued that the impact of sequester cuts on Defense’s budget has been overstated. Similarly, in order to bolster arguments for exempting defense from belt buckling (Defense was the only of 13 government agencies to get an increased budget request in FY12), the strategic deficiencies and external threats facing Defense have also been slightly overdone. That being said, the process of across-the-board sequester cuts can be improved substantially (a better alternative to these cuts will be discussed in the final part of the series).

How are deficiencies overstated? Proponents of increased defense spending argue that over the past decade the arsenal has been decimated, and there is a need to modernize the military. Well, not quite. From 2001-2011 procurement more than doubled. Studies calculate that the Pentagon spent $1 trillion in the past decade – a 97% increase from 2000 to 2010 – and was able to “modernize and improve our equipment inventory across the board.”

As Army Vice Chief of Staff noted in front of HASC, the military now has “a level of readiness…that has never been as high as it is today.” This modernization drive included: upgrading all of the Army’s vehicles, buying more ammunition than needed, a new fleet of F-22s and C-17 cargo aircraft, and numerous new naval vessels. DangerRoom has a sobering graphic that begins to break down the military’s transformation (in terms of personnel and technology) over the past decade.

As for the threat of China, U.S. military spending dwarfs that of China. With nearly 4 times the population, China’s military budget of $166 billion in 2009 comes out to less than one third of the $529 billion Defense was allocated in 2011 (see graphic below for a breakdown of the growing budget). Here is a great blog post that delves into the details to debunk the immediate threat of the “smoking dragon.”

The truth is, as the NYTimes concludes, “Even after the sequester cuts, the U.S. would still be investing about as much in defense as China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan and Germany combined, and could still protect vital national security interests.” Nonetheless, as I argue in my next post, there are much more strategic ways to cut the defense budget than the sequester method.

Written by Klaas Hinderdael

Klaas Hinderdael is a second year MA candidate in American Foreign Policy. He blogged this summer at The Will and the Wallet, has written for the BC Journal of International Affairs, and after SAIS will be working at Kroll.

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