Pentagon’s budget, for the first time in more than a decade, is coming under
intense political fire. Critics from the right and the left are raising a
ruckus about the Obama administration’s decision to shelter the Pentagon from
the painful cuts that other agencies are having to make. Even the U.S. top
military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, has
called out the soaring federal debt as a threat to national security.
debate only will intensify as the nation’s deficits spin out of control. To
shape the conversation, one of Washington’s watchdog think tanks, the Center
for Defense Information, is publishing a book of essays by 10 insiders and retired
officers. Collectively, the essays are intended to help understand how the
defense budget sausage is really made. Titled, “The Pentagon Labyrinth,” it covers
topics such as, “Decoding the Defense Budget,” “Penetrating the Pentagon,” and
“Evaluating Weapons: Sorting the Good from the Bad.”
Inside the Beltway, the defense
cognoscenti constantly are being flooded by news stories, think tank studies,
congressional and inspector-general reports about defense issues. Nonetheless,
there are widespread misconceptions about military spending, and about how key
decisions are made, contends Pentagon Labyrinth editor Winslow T. Wheeler. This book,
he writes, “aims to help newcomers as well as seasoned observers learn how to
grapple with the problems of national defense.” Wheeler,
a former Senate staffer and longtime critic of Pentagon spending, is director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information,
which is funded by public donations and foundation grants.
uncertainty of the DOD budget environment, continuing questions about how to
proceed with Afghanistan, the Middle East and China, and Americans' tentative
sense of security in a time of extremely high defense spending, we believe the
release of this unique publication is timely,” Wheeler said.
A few “Labyrinth” nuggets:
• Despite the doubling of the defense
budget since 1998, equipment and weapons are being worn out and not replaced.
• Congress has
abandoned critical oversight functions, especially with regard to providing the
common defense and to declare war.
• Acronyms have long played a part in
the language of a wide variety of human communities. Few other realms, however,
can compete with the American defense establishment when it comes to the
number, variety and pervasiveness of such synthetic words. Indeed, we have
reached a point where there are communities within the defense establishment
that use acronyms made up of other acronyms.
It is difficult to find another process that has been studied more than Defense
Department weapon acquisitions. Every three to four years, yet another
high-level study is commissioned to review program management. Yet, the same
problems persist. The U.S. government has the tools and expertise to make
substantial reductions in the cost overruns, performance disappointments and
schedule slips that plague our weapon programs. What we do not have, or have
not had consistently, is the determination to apply the available tools.