Monday, July 25, 2011

Why cutting the military budget will enhance our national security

The following is a nice followup to my post yesterday on not saying "Thank you" to the military. Benjamin H. Friedman, a Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies for the Cato Institute, presented testimony July 20 to the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform. In it, he proposes $1.1 trillion in common-sense reductions over the next decade by reducing the number of troops; surgical eliminations of certain types of ships, aircraft, and submarines; and most importantly, narrowing the mission of our armed forces to one that more than adequately provides for national defense.

The following excerpt gives Mr. Friedman's rationale for presenting the reductions -- one that strikes me as being eminently sensible (Emphasis added):
Arguments about defense spending are arguments about defense strategy. What you spend depends on what you think we ought to do militarily, which depends in turn on theories about what causes security. My argument here is that a far more modest strategy would better serve our security and allow a far smaller defense budget. That strategy is called restraint because it starts with the assumption that power tempts the United States to participate in foreign troubles that we should avoid. Restraint means fighting that temptation. It would husband American power rather than dissipate it by spreading promises and forces hither and yon, drawing us into conflicts that need not be ours.

Restraint does not require cuts in military force structure and spending. It allows them. A less busy military could be a smaller and cheaper one. But though you can have restraint without savings, you cannot save much without restraint.

Substantially reducing military spending requires reducing the ambitions it serves. Efforts to increase the Pentagon's efficiency — through acquisition reform, eliminating waste and duplication, or improving financial management — might save a bit, but these hardy perennials of defense reform have historically delivered few savings. The near doubling in our military's cost in the last twelve years (adjusting for inflation and leaving out the wars) stems more from the proliferation of its objectives than from the way it is managed. We spend too much because we choose too little.

Rather than use efficiency gains to drive savings, we should cut spending to enhance efficiency. Market competition encourages private organizations to streamline their operations. No such pressure exists in government, but cutting the top line and forcing the military services to compete for their budgets can incentivize them to find efficiencies.
Virtual buckeye to Andy Myers.

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