Thursday, November 17, 2005

Unbounded Expenses

In “The Mission” Dana Priest makes it very clear that the military is taking upon itself a great amount of tasks beyond traditional war-time combat. The United States has 329,061 personnel outside of the US. Increasingly, those soldiers are asked to fight unconventional wars against dynamic threats. While these changes are happening, and there is war in Iraq and active operations in Afghanistan, we continue to be guided by a National Security Strategy that is seeking out targets and vowing to prevent threats.

From readings this week, it seems clear that defense budgets are going to fall short of even limited estimations of what will be needed for defense given current priorities. The CBO report showed that Congress can expect to spend more and more money every year. Their 2004 projection for even that rate of increase had grown from their startling 2003 projection. CBO provided a dotted line for "cost risk," but it remains to be seen whether Congress has the stomach for those kinds of outlays. Either the scope of expenses or the strategy itself is going to have to change because we simply will not be able to sustain the military in its global posture given projected spending expectations, which I think are aimed low anyway.

I like the way JROC seems to work: joint planners can talk about projects with an eye to what the CINCs see on the ground in their respective theatres. That’s one option for focusing and trimming spending. What do you all think, is it going to come down to simply stepping back from the unpredictably expensive “action” approach to taking down forces opposing the US? Or is there a better way to manage the unbounded expenses that are sure to grow for national security?

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