Like President Obama’s announcement earlier this month, whuich drew angry denunciations from hawks, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s more detailed budget ideas for the Pentagon going forward ought be seen as an opening bid. Anyone concerned about the bloated budget at the Department of Defense will be disappointed, but there’s a great opportunity for antiwar activists in the next few years to build a coalition to effect real cuts in military spending.
The Pentagon’s base budget request will be $525 billion for fiscal year 2013, down $6 billion from FY 2012. The problem is that this FY 2013 request will represent the only actual cut in the next decade. After FY 2013, the Pentagon’s budget will once again rise steadily, by between $9 billion and $14 billion annually over the subsequent years in nominal terms.Panetta’s projections have been mischaracterized as representing a drastic ‘cut’ in military spending. In reality, these $487 billion in reductions over 10 years come from projected growth of military spending. As a result, even when adjusted for inflation, Panetta’s reductions halt the growth in the Pentagon’s budget, but they do not bring the budget down much from its current level.
“[Panetta] said that the Army would be reduced over five years to 490,000 troops, down from a peak of 570,000, and that the Marines would be cut to 182,000, down from 202,000. (Ground forces would still be slightly larger than they were before 9/11.) The Pentagon initially will buy fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth jets, which are not expected to be in service until at least 2017 and have the distinction of being one of the costliest weapons programs in history. In the Navy, 14 warships will be either retired early or built more slowly.”