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Defense Budget Can’t Sustain More Cuts

At the Weekly Standard, Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly have a typically trenchant article pointing out the possibility of “sequestration”–across-the-board cuts in the defense budget of $600 billion or more if the congressional super-committee does not agree on an alternative this fall–is not the only threat to our armed forces. The cuts that have already been legislated by Congress–amounting to well over $400 billion–by themselves endanger the military’s ability to carry out its duties, notwithstanding the assurances of senior generals and admirals that the current cuts are manageable and not catastrophic.

Schmitt and Donnelly are to be commended for cutting through the current air of resignation in Washington, even in the military community, about the inevitability of massive defense cuts. I spoke at a conference on the subject last week in Washington, sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and was dismayed to see the assembled defense experts apparently cannot imagine any alternative to more defense cuts. All they’re arguing about, it seems, is the size of those cuts. The problem is, that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If even the defense community is ready to chop away at the defense budget, that gives lawmakers free rein to go even further.

The Pentagon and all those who work with it need to do a better job of making the case for why the defense budget can’t sustain more cuts even if not at the catastrophic level of sequestration. That is a case Donnelly and Schmitt have been making–but not many others.