In Praise Of The Defense Sequester


There’s a truly hopeful piece in the NYT today that’s a further argument for the sequester. The military is slowly beginning to think through where and how to cut – in ways that can only help lower the debt and make massive land invasions of foreign countries much less feasible.

Inside the Pentagon, even some senior officers are saying that the reductions, if done smartly, could easily exceed those mandated by sequestration, as the cuts are called, and leave room for the areas where the administration believes more money will be required. These include building drones, developing offensive and defensive cyberweapons and focusing on Special Operations forces.

Given the way procurement and bases are spread across the states to prevent rational cutting and pruning – as would happen in any private sector company – I’m not sure the Democrats and non-neocon Republicans should ever end the defense sequester. How else are we going to cut defense spending given our corrupt, horse-trading, not-my-military-base Congress? And look at the chart above. Are we really spending more now than we did during Vietnam or the height of the Reagan defense buildup? Yes, we are.

Even as a percentage of GDP? Yes, we are:


I know we have a base-closing commission – but we all know its limits and manipulation (especially after the beginning of “House of Cards”). As the institution fights over “slices of a $530 billion budgetary pie that many experts think should be shrunk by one-fifth over the rest of this decade,” Thomas P.M. Barnett’s bet is on the army:

At roughly 560,000 men and women, the Army is bigger than it has been since 1994, when it was still crashing from its Reagan-era Cold War heights of 780,000. Later in the 1990s, the Army bottomed out at 480,000, and there’s no reason it can’t go back to that level, given that none of the fabulously high-tech wars being dreamed up by Pentagon planners calls for multiyear occupations of distant California-size countries.

(Charts via Ezra and data360)