Defense spending panel says sequestration wouldn't be disastrous

Petar Petrov/AP

Automatically triggered budget cuts are unlikely to occur and would not be catastrophic to the Defense Department anyway, experts said Wednesday, adding that personnel expenses will prove the greatest burden on the agency’s budget in coming years.

The three-person panel at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning public policy research group, discussed how to approach Defense spending to foster a more sustainable 21st century military.

The panelists felt that automatically triggered across-the-board Defense budget cuts -- scheduled to begin in 2013 and estimated to result in an additional $600 billion in spending reduction over the next 10 years -- would likely be averted, though none of them expected lawmakers to strike a deal before the presidential election in November. “Let’s not overreact, because a lot of times if you overreact it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy,” CAP Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb said, explaining that sequestration would, at most, only reduce Defense spending to 2007 levels.

Additionally, Korb said, any reduction in Defense’s allocation will result in smarter budgeting. “It’s good it’s going down, because it’s going to force you to make tough decisions,” the former assistant secretary of Defense under President Reagan said.

Those tough decisions should include personnel cuts, the panelists agreed, particularly in the category of ground troops.

Michael Breen, vice president of the Truman National Security Project and a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that trying to use ground troops to fight decentralized threats such as al-Qaeda is costly and counterproductive, and results primarily in an increased level of violent insurgents.

“Not only is it ridiculously expensive, it doesn’t actually work. It multiplies your threats; it doesn’t conserve your threats,” Breen said.

He also emphasized the importance of talking about the Defense budget in the context of “an integrated national security budget,” including funds allocated to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development in order to promote stability in volatile regions where U.S. armed forces have intervened.

Jim Arkedis, director of the National Security Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, outlined the expenses that pile on with every soldier sent to battle, noting that the government must then provide care to these men and women for the rest of their lives.

“If we let this continue, the Pentagon is going to become a health care company that essentially fights wars on the side,” Arkedis said. “Now, that’s hyperbole, of course, but there’s an underlying point there.”

Getting Congress on board with any proposed cuts will be an arduous undertaking for the department, the panelists agreed.

“One of the reasons we were a world leader in the 20th century was that we maintained a pretty consistent bipartisan consensus on what our national security strategy ought to be,” Breen told Government Executive following the panel. “I think we know what the outlines of consensus ought to look like today. It’s just a question of getting it done.”

Soon after the panel ended, Defense revealed its latest proposed spending cuts, which include a reduction of 80,000 combat troops.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.