A Poisoned Chalice?
April 23, 2008
The crisis in US national security planning, programming, and budgeting is not the fault of any one Administration, and has often been shaped by the mistakes of the US congress and key military commanders. It has accelerated sharply over the last eight years, however, and will be a major burden for the next President. The real cost of national security spending is likely to be 20-30% higher that is estimated in current baseline budget requests. There is no clear or coherent plan, program, or budget that reflects the fact the nation is at war and no credible mix of force plans, modernization plans, and procurement plans for the future.
Whether or not it is fair to call this crisis a “poisoned chalice” depends on one’s choice in rhetoric. What is clear is that there are a wide range of critical areas where cost escalation poses a critical problem, where no hard choices have been made, where key programs are not fully defined or cannot be implemented, and where trade-offs will have to be made between major increases in the defense budget and current force plans. The combined cost of war, steadily rising military manpower costs, the underfunding of operations and maintenance, and a procurement crisis in every service will force the next Administration to reshape almost every aspect of current defense plans, programs, and budgets.
The Burke Chair in Strategy has prepared a new briefing on these problems. It provides an overview of the major issues and trends involved, drawing on data developed by the Department of Defense, Department of State, OMB, the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Office, and General Accountability Office. It deliberately avoids using independent estimates to make it clear that the data represent official estimates.
It will be regularly updated and revised during the course of the year, and outside comments, additions, and corrections will be most welcome. All such comments should be addressed to the Burke Chair in care of Adam Mausner (firstname.lastname@example.org)