This afternoon, the Department of Defense will conduct detailed briefs on the FY 2010 defense budget request. While much of what Secretary Gates’ has proposed for the military budget in FY 2010 and in the coming years has already been made public, today’s proceedings should provide a much clearer picture.
Here is what we already know:
- The FY 2010 total defense budget will represent a $5.5 billion real reduction from FY 2009.
- President Obama’s 10-year defense spending plans fall well short of what the nation needs to spend and what it can afford to spend.
- Driving President Obama and Secretary Gates’ vision of how the military should be organized is the flawed assumption that the future will continue to resemble the irregular and ‘hybrid’ missions the U.S. military faces today.
- Although Gates has talked about ‘balancing’ the force, he has also recommended ending or delaying numerous programs central to retaining American military primacy across the full-spectrum of conflict over the next 20-30 years.
- The next step towards implementing Gates’ vision for how the military should be organized for the future will be the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review process, due out early next year. This process began last week.
While Congress will have to seriously consider the impact some of the proposals Secretary Gates has made in the coming months, there is one step they can take today to ensure the process Gates’ has initiated remains transparent and consistent with the best interests of American national security. Pursuant to law, Congress should oversee the establishment of an independent National Defense Panel to provide an outside evaluation of the prevailing opinions at the Pentagon. This panel should be made up of a number of defense experts with varying perspectives so that a truly transparent review and discussion can accompany the ongoing QDR process at the Pentagon.