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CSIS: The U.S. Defense Budget and Changes in U.S. Strategy

January 23, 2012

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This brief by Anthony H. Cordesman analyzes the pattern of cuts in recent, ongoing, and possible future defense and national security spending that affects the U.S. and its ability to project power and aid its friends and allies.

The Obama Administration announced a new strategy early this month, but one in which it failed to provide meaningful details as to changes in deployments, force levels and plans, procurement plans, and spending. In presenting this strategy, the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs did not address the broader budget and economic issues affecting every aspect of federal spending, and senior defense official said to wait for the budget details that would emerge over the "next few weeks."

A new report by the Burke Chair summarizes the new strategy, to the extent that it contains any meaningful details. It notes, however, that the current debate over defense spending has become decoupled from the far more serious issue of the impact of rising entitlement costs on the budget and US economy, and that much of the current debate over defense spending borders on the absurd because it assumes that plans for spending and cuts can be predicted and controlled over a ten year period. It also shows in detail that many of the most serious problems in shaping defense spending are the result of past failures to control costs and shape procurement and force plans, and not the result of US strategy.

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