The Perils of Cutting Defense Spending
The Public Intelligence Blog has speculated that the financial elites who indirectly are the principal influencers the U.S. Congress and the Presidency have decided that their best interests will be served if U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spending is substantially reduced. It has long been obvious that DOD budgets have been bloated beyond any rationality so any real effect to bring those budgets under control should be welcomed.
Yet I have concerns about how DOD will respond to major reductions in military spending. The permanent senior civilian leadership of DOD and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), for the most part, appear to be completely devoid of integrity and indeed common sense. I seriously doubt if DOD leadership can be trusted to execute intelligent reductions in spending. I worry that the bureaucrats and JCS staffers will end up cutting back even further on support to our actual fighting forces (real men and women) in order to continue funding parochial badly conceived programs that are expensive, but often useless. There is such a close relationship between DOD and the Defense Industries that as the late Colonel John Boyd (USAF ret.) observed the real strategy of the JSC is to keep the money flowing (and increasing if possible). Too many military and civilian DOD officials use a revolving door between high level DOD positions and high paying defense industries jobs to be able to objectively evaluate the real worth of many defense projects.
I also worry about the U.S. Defense Industries themselves. Giants like Lockheed-Martin (LM) and Northrop-Grumman (NG) are entirely dependent on the U.S. government and its foreign allies for work. On the other hand DOD needs these firms to produce new generations of military hardware that cannot be made by non-defense producers. Then there is the defense industries’ skilled work force. It may well be true that the senior management of outfits like LM is corrupt as the day is long, but the folks actually building the products are skilled, dedicated, and hard working. They sincerely try to give the customer the best product possible. Any major cutback in funding for these giants would mean, of course, that these skilled workers would be the first to go so that outfits like LM can keep up their dividend payments and stock value. In the bizarre world of corporate America, quarterly returns trump long term strategy every time.
Clearly bringing DOD spending under control is vital to U.S. Economic well being. Yet it must be done a way that will not harm national security over the long term. My conclusion is reducing DOD spending is an admirable goal, but the present civilian and military senior leadership lack the integrity and yes, even the intelligence (in the sense of decision-support) to be trusted to do the job right.