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December 23, 2008


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Since 2001, basic defense spending has risen by 40 percent in real post-inflation dollars. That is not counting the huge supplemental budgets passed — with little serious review or debate — each year to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such unquestioned largess has shielded the Pentagon from any real pressure to cut unneeded weapons systems and other wasteful expenses.


Some of these changes would have been made already if the Pentagon procurement system were more responsive to present needs and less captive to service and industry lobbyists. Defense Secretary Robert Gates complains about what he calls “next war-itis,” the system’s built-in preference for what might be needed in potential future wars over what is clearly needed now. Privately, most of the service chiefs concede that their budgets, which have seen little discipline since 9/11, have some margin for cuts.

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Mr. Gates, who will stay on, must make reforming the procurement system a priority. The era of unlimited budgets is over, and Mr. Gates needs to make tough calls and stick to them. Congress must give more weight to the nation’s overall needs and less to parochial interests.

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Pay for the Navy’s needed littoral combat ships. These ships, which operate in shallow waters to support ground combat, cost about $600 million each. Canceling the DDG-1000 destroyer (more than $3 billion per ship) and the Virginia class submarine (more than $2 billion each) will help provide that needed money.


The cuts above could save $20 billion to $25 billion a year, which could be better used as follows

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