February 28, 2014
Scowcroft Center Experts on Defense Budget
“I have no doubt there will be huge congressional battles over what was announced. In an election year, it is going to be hard for Congress to swallow some of these proposed reforms,” says Barry Pavel, a former senior Pentagon official.
The new budget “sustains a lot of stuff that is dear to the navy and to the air force”, says Jim Hasik, a defence expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington. It is in some ways a natural readjustment after the surge in spending over the past decade, rather than a new era of austerity. In constant dollars, the Pentagon will still spend at about its historical average levels, even compared with the cold war when the military challenge it faced was much starker.
Attempts to control personnel costs are even more controversial. Among military analysts it is almost an article of faith that the Pentagon needs to reduce spending on salaries, pensions and healthcare if it is to have money for new weapons programmes. “Realigning personnel costs and funding the pension system just has to be done, but it is a sort of third rail now,” says James Joyner, a professor at the US Marine Corps Staff College.