Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Positive Opening

Here's something that could restore my faith in the political process if it actually comes to pass:
According to a story by Bryan Bender in the Boston Globe, the Defense Business Board, a senior advisory group appointed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, recommended huge cuts in the military budget, noting that the current level of spending on weapons is "unsustainable." Several private and congressional defense analysts have been making this point for a few years now; the U.S. Government Accountability Office recently calculated that the Pentagon's 95 largest weapons systems have accumulated cost overruns amounting to $300 billion (that's just the overruns, not the total cost, which amounts to many hundreds of billions more). It's also clear, from the Pentagon's own budget analyses, that well over half of the $700 billion-plus budget has little if anything to do with the threats the United States faces now or in the foreseeable future. The past seven years have been a free-for-all for the nation's military contractors and service chiefs; the number of canceled weapons projects can be counted on one hand; they've otherwise received nearly all the money for everything they've asked for. Even many of the beneficiaries realize that the binge is coming to an end; the nation simply can't afford it. Obama's fortune is that he can order the cuts, invoking not his own preferences but the sober-minded urgings of a business advisory group in the Bush administration.

The original story is less sanguine about the chances for this to actually occur. Still, the idea that large portions of the military budget can eliminated without affecting America's safety and security is not something that normally sees print in a major media outlet.

Kaplan's Slate article reminds me, too, why I think he is the best writer on national security issues. His work is based on a healthy amount of realism and a definite respect for what the actual work of "projecting power" means to the man or woman at the point of the spear. I like that he is always skeptical about the utility of using lethal force in America's relations with other nations.