This is a critical moment for U.S. defense strategy. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, persistent and new threats compete for our attention. Meanwhile, budgetary pressure has forced cuts to defense spending, and additional automatic reductions through the sequester, are set to go into effect in 2013 and continue through the following decade. These debates cannot be undertaken separately: defense spending decisions should not undercut security but be informed by a strategic vision; grand strategy, on the other hand, must be translated into operational requirements and fit into fiscal constraints. The Task Force on Defense Budget and Strategy, a new initiative of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), will provide a blueprint for a realistic and affordable national security strategy for the 21st century.
Co-chaired by former U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chair Pete Domenici, former Secretary of Agriculture and former Chairman, U.S. House Select Intelligence Committee Dan Glickman and former National Security Advisor General James Jones, BPC’s Task Force on Defense Budget and Strategy is a joint effort of its Economic Policy and Foreign Policy Projects. It leverages the strengths and perspectives of those two projects and builds on the work of BPC’s Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force.
The task force’s first report, released in June 2012, offers a detailed and thorough analysis of the mechanics, implementation and effects of the sequester. The report recognizes the extraordinary nature of the sequester, and that the primary issue is not the size or focus of its cuts but the arbitrary manner in which they are executed. It concludes that allowing the sequester to take effect would be indefensible, severely undermining our economic and military strength.
By addressing the drivers of Department of Defense spending – personnel, overhead and acquisition costs – the defense budget can be brought in line with current fiscal constraints without sacrificing national security. The task force will issue a follow-up report over the next few months, which will propose a defense strategy and a series of reforms leading to a more efficient defense budget that is consistent with evolving national security and fiscal imperatives.
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