Big Numbers, No Specific Defense Budget Cuts
There was a lot of encouraging rhetoric for defense reformers from President Obama in his press conference tonight. Asked about the politics of cutting defense, he didn’t back down, and instead cited “uniform acknowledgement” that the procurement process is broken, citing his former presidential rival, Sen,John McCain (R-Ariz.), for political cover. He derided the idea that some programs experience “cost overruns of 30, 40, 50 percent and still don’t perform the way they’re supposed to.” And he gave threw out some red-meat demonization of “lobbyists” and “contractors” who rig the system to ensure the continued vitality of weapons programs instead of the national defense. (He conveniently forgot that he made one of them his deputy defense secretary.)
What he didn’t do was cite a single specific cut he’ll make in any specific weapons system. Somehow he’s identified “$40 billion in savings” — a number that’s gone around a lot for the past month — without explaining where it comes from. That begs the question of whether the forthcoming fleshed-out defense budget will delineate those specifics in cuts to actual defense programs or whether the explanation will come in September, when the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon release their new guidelines for future government contracting. Are we talking about $40 billion in cuts to programs or in cuts to projected spending?