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April 06, 2009

Conservatives Suffer From Fuzzy Memory on the Defense Budget
Posted by Patrick Barry

Conservatives have apparently decided on their strategy for criticizing President Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates' 2010 DOD budget: Ahistoricism.  This from AEI's Tom Donnelly via Tom Ricks:

Obama is going to be cutting defense budgets (and we shall see what happens in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Gates gives him top cover that no Dem can give. Obama needs Gates through this year's budget, the QDR process and the 2011 budget-build, and these are difficult defense issues that matter a lot more than gays or satisfying any of the party constituencies, because they could jeopardize Obama's domestic priorities. Gates, for reasons that I cannot quite figure out, has agreed to this Faustian bargain.

The idea that the Secretary of Defense is falling on his sword to allow the Obama administration the political cover necessary to make cuts to the defense budget is interesting, but only because it is completely unconnected from reality.  One possibility that doesn't seem to have occured to Donnelly is that Secretary Gates is supporting the current Administration's defense reprioritizing because it was his idea in the first place.  Here is Gates last September:

"When it comes to procurement, for the better part of five decades, the trend has gone towards lower numbers as technology gains made each system more capable. In recent years these platforms have grown ever more baroque, ever more costly, are taking longer to build, and are being fielded in ever dwindling quantities.Given that resources are not unlimited, the dynamic of exchanging numbers for capability is perhaps reaching a point of diminishing returns."

Recall also that Gates warned this past January that the "spigot of defense funding opened by 9/11 is closing."  It isn't as if no one saw this coming.  Accusing the Secretary of Defense of entering into a devilish pact with the President out of political expedience distracts from the reality that this is the Pentagon's budget, reflecting statements which the Secretary has been making since the last administration. 


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