Christopher Preble reviewed the implications of the debt deal for military spending:
Assuming that is true, the maximum amount of defense cuts possible here is $850 billion. That is a cut of roughly 15 percent compared to planned spending based on the president’s February 2011 budget submission — not including the wars. It is roughly on par with the cuts proposed by the Bowles-Simpson Commission. The total savings are much lower, roughly half, if you compare the cuts to what we actually spend now, rather than the increases we were planning on in past planning documents.
And remember, that $850 billion is a maximum; it may not materialize. It will be lower, if, as hawks hope, the cuts fall on the non-defense elements of the security category. It will be lower if the Joint Committee finds other accounts to cut, avoiding the triggers.
Still, that possible amount is enough to make hawks apoplectic. We are sure to hear more complaints about “gutting or “hollowing out” the force. But let’s keep some facts about military spending in mind:
The Pentagon’s budget has more than doubled over the past decade, and current projections call for the Pentagon to receive more than $6 trillion from U.S. taxpayers through 2021. If its budget got cut by 15 percent, that would return us to roughly 2007 levels [bold mine-DL]. That hardly seems like “gutting“. After such cuts, we would still account for more than 40 percent of global military spending, and our margin of military superiority over any combination of rivals would remain unrivaled.
For all the talk of decline and retrenchment, the real debate over military spending at present is whether the U.S. should settle for the massive amounts it spent in the year of the Iraq “surge” or whether it should spend far more.