Debt Reduction Plan Portends Deep Cuts in Defense, Analyst Says

Difficult decisions about military priorities, including whether to reduce the size of the Armed Forces or to buy new weapons, will be required to meet President Obama’s goal of cutting $400 billion in defense spending by 2023.

“Nobody should confuse this with an efficiency exercise. This is going to be about cutting muscle and accepting greater risk and reducing capabilities,” Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst with the Brookings Institution, said Tuesday during an interview with NPR News.

“You will have to eliminate some brigade combat teams in the Army, and you may have to look for ways to operate with one fewer aircraft carrier. You may need to buy substantially fewer numbers of certain weapons like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” he said.

O’Hanlon believes the budget savings needed could require eliminating more command structures and another round of base closures, according to an editorial in Thursday’s Washington Post.

Much of the savings could not be realized for many years, after the military turns over responsibility for Afghanistan and when orders for the F-35 reach full steam.

Relying on the Pentagon’s budget for trimming the deficit is a delicate balance, the Post editorial noted, given the current degree of political upheaval throughout the globe. In fact, before finding out the degree to which defense spending would be involved in the president’s proposal to reduce the national debt by $4 trillion, Defense Secretary Robert Gates had warned against looking to the military as a solution to the nation’s fiscal problems.

“We shrink from our global security responsibilities at our own peril,” Gates told Congress last month.


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