Monday, June 28, 2004

Bush's defense record

National Journal has an in-depth article on Bush's record as commander-in-chief. There is praise for the Rumsfield's transformation, and hints that Rumsfeld hasn't gone far enough! Of course there is also concern about the unprecedented operating tempo at which Bush's foreign policy has obligated the military to keep up. Something not so commonly discussed is that not only is the army's current manpower arrangement unsustainable, but so is the current budget arrangement:
Meanwhile, Bush has also inherited, and retained mostly unchanged, the Clinton-era plan for procuring new weapons, a plan that also counts on major long-term spending increases. Overall, by the same CBO figures, the Defense budget is on track to grow from $383 billion in fiscal 2004 to $439 billion in fiscal 2009 -- above the peak of either Vietnam or the Reagan buildup, in constant dollars. And CBO warns that its estimates do not include likely weapons overruns or the supplemental bills for funding the global war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Thanks to Congress's generous supplementals, "the Department of Defense has not really been asked to absorb any of the costs" of Iraq, said CSBA's Kosiak. But historically, defense spending rises and falls in cycles, Kosiak warned, and "if we're not going to see budgets of $450-plus billion a year for the next decade, we're not going to be able to afford everything in the administration's plans."
I'd gladly support a $500 billion defense budget, but it's not politically feasible. The deficit has probably reached the ceiling of political acceptability (and certainly passed my personal ceiling), and I can't think of any sufficiently potent combination of spending cuts and tax increases that could actually get through Congress.

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