US Strategy, Sequestration, and the Growing Strategy-Reality Gap
February 11, 2013
As the March deadline for sequestration fast approaches, recent reporting by the Congressional Budget Office. Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Defense, and the military services have shown the damage sudden across-the-board cuts could have on national security and strategic planning. At the same time, a broader a review of US strategy and defense programming and budget problems shows that the cuts threatened by the Budget Control Act are only part of the problem.
A new brief by the Burke Chair analyzes the forces driving the crisis, defense spending, the latest data on sequestration, and the broader strategic and budgetary risks shaping US Future Year Defense Spending. This study is entitled US Strategy, Sequestration in March, and the Growing Strategy-Reality Gap, and is available on the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/130225_US_Strategy_Sequestration.pdf.
The brief provides a service-by-service assessment of the aspects of the defense budget that are jeopardized by sequestration, based on the latest unclassified information from the Department of Defense and from statements made by senior officials. It highlights how sequestration can affect the impact of defense spending on total federal spending and the US economy.
It provides detailed graphs and tables showing the pressures on defense spending caused by growing expenditures on domestic entitlement spending, how these interact with the impact of the Budget Control Act and sequestration, and the problems caused by the Department’s failures to make realistic force plans and budget projections to bring its costs under control. It also highlights the far underlying problems that are driving the rise in entitlement spending – particularly Medicare and Social Security.
At the same time, the brief highlights the problems in a US strategy that lacks coherence and is not based upon real world force plans, personnel plans, and procurement plans. It shows the Department of Defense has failed to shape a real world mix of strategy and plans. It has also failed to bring its costs under control, formulate realistic plans and budgets, and close the gap between its strategy and the need for realistic plans and budgets.
For example, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Department of Defense has underestimated the true price of implementing its programs by $14 billion in FY2013 alone. This means that if sequestration goes into effect, the Department would actually be $66 billion short of the resources needed to implement its programs in FY2013, and not simply due to the impact of sequestration alone.
The brief also shows that a major gap exists between the broad, undefined strategic rhetoric in the new strategy and the budget-driven spending cuts in the FY2013 budget submission. It examines the critical shortcomings in the new strategy the Department of Defense issued. It shows how vague and uncertain many aspects of the new US strategy are, that the military services are often developing their own approaches to strategy, and that many elements of the strategy remain decoupled from the FY2013-FY2017 Future Year Defense Plan.
For more details on the problems in the new US strategy, see The New US Strategy, the FY2013 Defense Budget, Sequestration, and the Growing Strategy-Reality Gap, which is available on the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/121219_us_new_strategy_fy13_budget.pdf.