February 1, 2011  

Crucial cuts

TO DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES for a fiscal 2012 budget request that falls woefully short of the serious cuts that are essential and unavoidable.

Despite his long insistence that he would rein in wasteful spending, Gates called for a base budget of $553 billion, $4 billion up from the 2011 request. That’s not a cut; it’s not even a freeze.

If the Pentagon doesn’t act now to get spending under control, it will find itself in a far worse place down the not-too-distant road. Cuts will be forced on the services without dialogue, debate or consultation. When the doors close on the Afghanistan war, crippling Medicare, Social Security and national debt interest payments will quickly take priority over defense spending. And the defense budget, which consumes nearly two-thirds of federal budget discretionary spending, is by far the biggest pot of gold to plunder.

Like it or not, the Pentagon has a tough choice: Start cutting the base budget now and have a say in how savings are achieved, or have the ax fall where it may. The SecDef and service chiefs talk the talk of tough choices on program cuts, but thus far they are not walking the walk.