There’s Too Much Confusion

Dear Dov Zakheim,

I’m a little confused as to how you reason that a $663.7 billion defense budget that won’t be fully worked out until April "sacrifices American primacy." I suppose that since Bob Gates has talked about difficult "tradeoffs" and the need to focus on the current wars rather than ephemeral conceptions of hypothetical wars, it’s reasonable to speculate that "short-term military needs" will be something privileged in the forthcoming Pentagon budget request. But how do you get to this:

While the administration is certainly funding short-term military needs, it appears willing to sacrifice long-term U.S. military superiority. We should not forget that, even if China’s GDP is no longer growing at 8-9 percent each year, even a five percent annual growth will enable Beijing to continue to modernize and expand its military capability over the medium to long term, while the current U.S. defense budget clearly limits our capability over the same time frame.

You were Pentagon comptroller. Can you explain how you’re defining "medium" and "long-term," and how a budget that no one’s read yet is treating the rise of a potential Chinese competitor irresponsibly? While you’re at it, would you mind explaining why you’d expect Gates to act imprudently? I confess I don’t see much in his career to support that proposition.

On my read, this appears to be the strongest leg of your argument:

In fact, personnel and operations and maintenance costs will squeeze procurement and research and development programs, and do so at a time when the loss of engineering jobs will run counter to the administration’s job creation policy. More ominously, while foreign students will continue to dominate key university post-graduate science and engineering programs, young American engineers, who probably are most familiar with state-of-the-art developments in their fields, are more likely to be laid off first as procurement programs are cuts. The administration seems oblivious to the implications of this long-term threat to our national security.

Concede all that for the sake of argument. Does such a thing really jeopardize American primacy? Please show your work.

Crossposted to The Streak.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman