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Over the next decade — if the current-law sequester cuts and spending caps hold — US defense spending will fall to EU-like levels. That is certainly too low if the US is to remain a global military superpower as opposed to becoming a “regional hegemon” in the words of my friends at the Heritage Foundation. (The Obama White House might well prefer this trajectory but would rather the “peace dividend” be used to finance government rather than lower budget deficits.)
OK, we don’t want that. But that will be then. This is now. And given budget realities, the sequester should immediately force Obama’s Pentagon, argues AEI’s Mackenzie Eaglen, “to confront the primary drivers of imbalanced defense spending, including military and civilian bureaucratic overhead, excess infrastructure, and runaway compensation costs.” I would also add in the $70 billion in Pentagon nondefense-related spending identified by Senator Tom Coburn.
Eaglen offers several recommendations:
1. When trying to slash excess overhead and infrastructure, Pentagon leaders should aim to shrink the bureaucracy while preserving core military capabilities. To do this, they need to begin collecting better information internally. The Pentagon does not currently assess the most affordable mix of military, civilian and contractors in its employment.
2. The department must develop tools to effectively match supply and demand for internal labor in order to understand which jobs may be eliminated and which competencies need additional staffing. Without these simple tools at its disposal, it is not surprising the Pentagon has thus far been unable to size the workforce correctly.
3. Efforts to close additional bases have been unsuccessful. One proposal of note by a senior Air Force official, for example, is for the Pentagon to select installations for closure based on the community’s interest in conversion and their ability to thrive in commercial redevelopment.
In other words, the Pentagon needs to bring in a) some business rationality and b) Big Data.
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