Policymakers are currently debating the appropriate level of U.S. military spending given increasingly constrained budgets and the winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The following charts present historical trends in U.S. military spending and analyze the forces that may drive it lower.
Emerson Brooking discusses the difficulty—and necessity—of proposed defense spending reductions in the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act. In the long run, national security is a function of economic health, not just military power.
Drawing on her experience as a member of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, Janine Davidson argues that deep cuts to active Air Force personnel without commensurate increases in reserve unit capacity will result in the loss of valuable training investment and institutional knowledge.
The Quadrennial Defense Review is mandated by Title 10, Section 118 of the US Code, which states that every four years, the Secretary of Defense, with input from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, must conduct "a comprehensive examination ... of the national defense strategy, force structure, force modernization plans, infrastructure, budget plan, and other elements of the defense program and policies of the United States with a view toward determining and expressing the defense strategy of the United States and establishing a defense program for the next 20 years."
Instead of hoping that a political miracle will spare the Pentagon from the budget ax, American defense officials need to start preparing for the inevitable. That means bringing personnel costs under control, getting on with strategic planning, and reshaping the forces for today's missions.
"At the DFAS offices that handle accounting for the Army, Navy, Air Force and other defense agencies, fudging the accounts with false entries is standard operating procedure, Reuters has found. And plugging isn't confined to DFAS (pronounced DEE-fass). Former military service officials say record-keeping at the operational level throughout the services is rife with made-up numbers to cover lost or missing information."
On July 31, 2013, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel provides an overview of the Department of Defense's Strategic Choices Management Review, which analyzed how the department will operate and what it must cut after sequestration.
"[The] country's defense experts and policy makers are now addressing systemic reform and modernization issues, and are talking about breaking down barriers to cooperation with civilian industry and market-driven management."
Staff from the various think tanks signed a consensus letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, about how to implement reforms at the Department of Defense.
"Increasingly, without United States assistance, military experts said, Europe's armed forces have trouble carrying out basic operations as its dwindling financial and political commitment has derailed multiple initiatives intended to make the continent more self-reliant."
According to Meghan L. O'Sullivan, "Given the several still-undetermined variables and the wide variety of plausible outcomes, it is too early to bring final judgment on American efforts in Iraq even 10 years on."
As the Pentagon attempts to refocus the U.S. military strategy toward Asia, the department is facing major budget constraints. Experts disagree on how to balance the fiscal challenge with the country's national security priorities.
The United States has cut defense spending in the past, and it is doing so again today. In 1989, for example, the Defense Department spent $295 billion; seven years later it spent $253 billion, or about 14 percent less in nominal dollars. When inflation is taken into account, defense spending dropped by more than 25 percent during the 1990s. U.S. defense spending will likely follow a similar trajectory over the next decade with the Afghanistan war ending and pressure mounting to cut government spending.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
The author examines Pakistan's complex role in U.S. foreign policy and advocates for a two-pronged approach that works to quarantine threats while integrating Pakistan into the broader U.S. agenda in Asia.