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August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan's "Evolving" Views on Pentagon Spending
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

When Paul Ryan introduced the first "Ryan budget" last year, the one that made him the Tom Cruise teen heartthrob of conservative circles, there was some quiet consternation about his Pentagon spending proposals. Bill Kristol's colleagues at the Foreign Policy Initiative thought the numbers could have been higher. Green-eyeshade types noted that Ryan's Pentagon proposals amounted to a reduction in the rate of growth over five years, not an actual cut -- though it did propose a level lower than what the White House had proposed for that year.

Who, like Goldilocks, thought Ryan's Pentagon spending was just about right? The Obama Administration, that's who. Because Ryan appeared to have adopted some of its key assumptions and arrived at very similar numbers.

By 2012, however, Ryan seemed to have changed his mind about the relationship between deficit and defense. His proposal this year was notable for plussing up Pentagon spending well beyond commander requests -- and taking more out of supports for seniors, students and the needy to do it.

Here's hoping a reporter asks him -- soon-- about his views on defense strategy, how they have evolved, and who is guiding his thinking. Also, it's worth recalling that his 2011 budget brought him conflict with HOuse Armed Serbices Chair Buck McKeon and 23 freshmen over its "low" Pentagon spending levels; this year's budget process, on the other hand, saw him accusing Pentagon uniformed leaders of not being honest with Congress by requesting too LITTLE, surely a first in the history of tension between Pentagon procurement and Congressional budget overseers.

So what does this tell us about Paul Ryan: that he is less a consistent budget maverick and more a creature of political pressure than his hagiography suggests; and that, lacking his own fully-formed views on the strategic requirements for US national security, he adopted a politically-expedient course. Both of which make him a great match for Governor Romney, whose national security policy makes up in rhetoric what it lacks in substance, or in differentiation from current policies that have won the support of military and public alike.

Note: this is my first attempt to blog from my iPhone3. Results are mixed. Links to citations and specific numbers are below:


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