Obama's SOTU: Pentagon Gets Off Easy

| Wed Jan. 26, 2011 12:07 PM EST

During his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama talked about the need to slash government spending, and he even referred to Pentagon spending. But Gordon Adams, an expert on military spending, says that Obama is pulling his punches:

When it came to defense, though, Obama deferred to the Pentagon and shied away from any game-changing vision on par with his other ideas.

We saw this deference in quick sequence.  Last year the president promised a three-year freeze in domestic discretionary spending but excluded defense; this year he extended that freeze to five years and again exempted defense. Obama then bowed to the Pentagon, noting that “the Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.”

Deferring to a bureaucratic interest to determine what resources it can and cannot do without is not ‘tackling excessive spending.’  It’s posturing – the image of discipline without the pain of making it real. That shortchanges the taxpayer, neglects the service-member, and undermines the civil-military balance on which our republic is premised.

For the taxpayer, trusting the Pentagon, one of the few cabinet-level agencies unable to meet the standards of financial audit, to set its own budget is a sure path toward the spending waste and excess the president claims to be tackling....

Much work therefore remains to be done. National defense is on the table for debt reduction, as it should be. But the conversation is still immature, the outcome uncertain, and the stakes especially high.

 

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