Wash. Post's Kagan claimed OMB "has ordered a 10 percent cut in defense spending"

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In his Washington Post column, Robert Kagan claimed that "Pentagon officials have leaked word that the Office of Management and Budget has ordered a 10 percent cut in defense spending for the coming fiscal year." In fact, the Obama administration has reportedly proposed a $14 billion increase from its fiscal year 2009 budget.

In his February 3 Washington Post column, headlined "No Time To Cut Defense," Robert Kagan claimed that "Pentagon officials have leaked word that the Office of Management and Budget [OMB] has ordered a 10 percent cut in defense spending for the coming fiscal year, giving Defense Secretary Robert Gates a substantially smaller budget than he requested." In fact, as Josh Rogin reported in a February 2 Congressional Quarterly article, the Obama administration has actually proposed increasing the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 budget by about $14 billion from its 2009 budget. In stating that OMB has "ordered a 10 percent cut," Kagan was comparing the limit reportedly set by the Obama administration for defense spending with what Rogan reported was "a $584 billion draft budget request compiled last fall by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for fiscal 2010" -- not a budget that Gates "requested," as Kagan claimed. Indeed, Kagan baselessly suggested a split between OMB and Gates over the increasing size of the budget, writing that President Obama "should side with Gates over the green-eyeshade boys." But Gates has stated that the "FY 2010 budget must make hard choices" and that the "spigot of defense funding opened by 9/11 is closing."

Rogin reported:

The Obama administration has given the Pentagon a $527 billion limit, excluding war costs, for its fiscal 2010 Defense budget, an Office of Management and Budget official said Monday. If enacted, that would be about $14 billion more than the $513 billion allocated for fiscal 2009 (PL 110-329), including military construction funds, and it would match what the Bush administration estimated last year for the Pentagon in fiscal 2010.

Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald first noted Kagan's claim that OMB "has ordered a 10 percent cut in defense spending" in a February 2 post. Additionally, Heather Hurlburt discussed the issue in a February 1 post on the National Security Network's Democracy Arsenal blog.

Rogin further reported:

[B]ehind the scenes, Pentagon officials have already begun trying to cast the new administration's fiscal 2010 Defense number as a cut. A Jan. 30 Fox News report quoted a senior Defense official as saying the Obama administration demanded a $55 billion cut in Defense spending. President Obama met with the Joint Chiefs that day. "To call that a cut would be wrong, because what the chiefs had done was a huge increase," said Gordon Adams, who led the national security division of OMB during the Clinton administration.

Contrary to Kagan's suggestion that OMB and Gates are at odds over the size of the Pentagon budget, as Rogin noted, in his January 27 prepared testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said that the "FY 2010 budget must make hard choices" and that "[w]ith two major campaigns ongoing, the economic crisis and resulting budget pressures will force hard choices on this department." From Gates' prepared statement:

I believe that the FY 2010 budget must make hard choices. Any necessary changes should avoid across-the-board adjustments, which inefficiently extend all programs.

[...]

The choices we make will manifest themselves in how we train, whom we promote, and, of course, how we spend. As I mentioned, President Obama will present his budget later this spring. One thing we have known for many months is that the spigot of defense funding opened by 9/11 is closing. With two major campaigns ongoing, the economic crisis and resulting budget pressures will force hard choices on this department.

But for all the difficulties we face, I believe this moment also presents an opportunity - one of those rare chances to match virtue to necessity. To critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements - those things that are desirable in a perfect world from those things that are truly needed in light of the threats America faces and the missions we are likely to undertake in the years ahead.

As I've said before, we will not be able to "do everything, buy everything." And, while we have all spoken at length about these issues, I believe now is the time to take action. I promise you that as long as I remain in this post I will focus on creating a unified defense strategy that determines our budget priorities. This is, after all, about more than just dollars: It goes to the heart of our national security.

I will need help from the other stakeholders - from industry, and from you, the members of Congress. It is one thing to speak broadly about the need for budget discipline and acquisition reform. It is quite another to make tough choices about specific weapons systems and defense priorities based solely on national interests. And then to stick to those decisions over time. The President and I need your help as all of us together do what is best for America as a whole in making those decisions.

From Kagan's February 3 Washington Post column:

Pentagon officials have leaked word that the Office of Management and Budget has ordered a 10 percent cut in defense spending for the coming fiscal year, giving Defense Secretary Robert Gates a substantially smaller budget than he requested. Here are five reasons President Obama should side with Gates over the green-eyeshade boys.

  • It doesn't make fiscal sense to cut the defense budget when everyone is scrambling for measures to stimulate the economy. Already, under the current Pentagon budget, defense contractors will begin shutting down production lines in the next couple of years -- putting people out of work. Rather than cutting, the Obama administration ought to be increasing defense spending. As Harvard economist Martin Feldstein recently noted on this page, defense spending is exactly the kind of expenditure that can have an immediate impact on the economy.
  • A reduction in defense spending this year would unnerve American allies and undercut efforts to gain greater cooperation. There is already a sense around the world, fed by irresponsible pundits here at home, that the United States is in terminal decline. Many fear that the economic crisis will cause the United States to pull back from overseas commitments. The announcement of a defense cutback would be taken by the world as evidence that the American retreat has begun.
Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Defense Funding
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Robert Kagan
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