The Pentagon today issued a “warning” to the Obama Administration about its proposed budget cuts, which as always were really just decreases in the rate of growth of spending for the military. Officials insisted the cuts were dangerous and might threaten the military’s capabilities.
The Obama plan budgets the savings out through 2023, which makes most of the $400 billion “savings” illusory and contingent on future administrations sticking to the current estimates (which never happens). Even this largely rhetorical exercise has been slammed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who warned any changes in funding would need to reflect “policy choices and not be a budget math exercise.”
Officials said that the cuts needed to involve the administration selecting specific military missions that would be ended. Though it is obviously impossible to predict what the US foreign policy situation will look like in another 12 years, officials seem pretty confident that the US will be involved in a myriad of wars of some form or another and still need money in excess of the already record levels of spending for 2010.
Which of course means that the railing against the current, miniscule cuts serves not just to score points with defense contractors, but also to set the tone of debate on where the military budgets for the next 12 years will be. Record budgets every single year are virtually the expectation at this point (some overly ambitious guesstimates notwithstanding), and the proposed cuts in the size of those records have been framed as “controversial.” This makes any reduction to a sane level of military spending so far out of the field of debate as to be unheard of. It may not be clear who the US will be occupying and/or bombing in 2023, but the current “debate” aims to assure it will be somebody.