Defense Reform Will Have to Wait Until Next Year, If at All
Has all this bated-breath excitement about Defense Secretary Bob Gates scrubbing the fiscal 2010 Pentagon budget, due next month, been for nothing? Is the defense-spending “spigot” remaining open after all? God will I be embarrassed if so; and according to the Pentagon’s deputy comptroller, it might. From subscription-only Inside The Pentagon:
DOD officials intend to cut procurement in the FY-10 budget by 2 percent or 3 percent, according to Kevin Scheid, the Pentagon’s deputy comptroller. However, more substantial programmatic cuts or adds will be influenced by the Quadrennial Defense Review and implemented beginning with the FY-11 request, due to Congress in February 2010.
“The administration will make . . . a partial statement with the FY-10 [budget's] details, but the full statement will be really communicated in the FY-11” budget, Scheid said today during a presentation at an Aviation Week-sponsored conference in Washington.
The procurement budget last year was about $104 billion. Three percent of that is around $3 billion. Change we can believe in!
Snark aside, the challenge now shifts over to the Quadrennial Defense Review. To recall Tony Cordesman’s plea for coordination between budgets and strategy, it makes sense to defer major budgetary choices until a major strategy review is completed. But it’s fair to say that ever since it was established in the 1990s, the QDR process represents hedged bets about what the future of the U.S. defense posture looks like — meaning they contain something for everyone (tech-heavy weaponry; irregular warfare; sea-based threats, etc) and rarely if ever recommend sharp cuts in favored programs. Could this one really be any different? Scheid:
The FY-11 budget will contain “major muscle movements” both “positive and negative” and influenced by the QDR, he said. At the same time, the FY-10 budget request — which is expected to be unveiled the week of April 20 — will not include outyear numbers because QDR work is just beginning. Gates has accelerated the Pentagon’s QDR build.
This would seem to give the defense lobby time to regroup, though.