Saturday, May 15, 2010

The case for fear-based defense spending

DefSec Robert Gates has been planning the Pentagon's future defense budget.  Concerns had been expressed in some circles that the DefSec would propose cutting defense spending drastically,  potentially jeopardizing the security of the American people in these dangerous times.  So far, this has not happened.

Gordon Adams describes the situation at the Simon Center's Budget Insight National Security blog:
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a major speech last week about the future of US defense capabilities and the military budget.  It was generally greeted as a voice of realism... It was nothing of the sort....  Gates ... said nothing about the billions his budget decisions added to replace the systems he ostensibly cut.... 
From the perspective of DoF, it makes sense that an American Secretary of Defense would not submit a defense budget  based entirely on "realism."  Are the fears of the American people based in "realism"?  They are not.  They are a product of our collective imagination, informed by FoxNews and other US media sources.   In a democracy, the technocrats have to consider the feelings of the people.  And the people are afraid. Adams continues:
The key to understanding what Gates was really saying lies in the Secretary’s statement that the current state of the world justifies “sustaining the current military force structure.”   And in his assertion that the defense budget must grow roughly two-to-three percent above inflation to sustain that force structure...
Think about that for a moment:  Gates believes "the state of the world justifies" today's high defense budget.  What does that tell you?   It tells you that the world is a very dangerous place.  Adams:
The QDR lays out US military missions that are staggeringly ambitious and demanding....  DOD missions are being expanded...  The QDR provides no calculus of the level of risk the nation faces by setting such priorities...  This unconstrained piling-on of missions constitutes the most obvious case for endless defense budget growth.  It has gone unchallenged, at DOD, in the administration, or in the Congress...
"The QDR provides no calculus of the level of risk the nation faces..."  Why would it?   DoF maintains that the appropriate calculus in determining the defense budget should not be "level of risk," but  fear.

Just as there is no limit to the fears of the people, there should be no limit to defense spending.

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Dr. Rebecca Wolf
Undersecretary for Community and New Media
United States Department of Fear