Projected cuts in military spending: DOD budget enters the land of make-believe

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

I'm reading with interest an online story in The New York Times today about planned reductions in the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps by 47,000 personnel, despite U.S. involvement in several different overseas conflicts. Gee, that sounds pretty serious.

Yet The Times story, entitled Pentagon Seeks Biggest Military Cuts Since Before 9/11 , waits until the sixth paragraph to point out these force reductions in the Army and Marines are not expected to begin until the year 2015.

Yeah, 2015. Four years, two congressional elections, and one presidential election away. In this politically charged climate, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is predicting what's going to happen in the Pentagon four years in the future.

That's kind of like predicting how the weather will be in four years, except a whole lot less accurately.

So much is going to happen in the federal government between now and 1 Oct. 2014 -- the first day of federal fiscal year 2015 -- that no one ... NO ONE ... has any clue how the political landscape influencing defense spending will be by then.

I've been covering the DOD budget closely now for nearly 20 years, and I can't predict with any accuracy whatsoever even how the annual DOD budget request -- typically submitted in February or March -- will differ from the actual congressional appropriations that come out the following fall. Six months is an eternity in this business -- except where procurement of big-ticket new military platforms is concerned. There's no way anyone can tell where we're going to be in four years time.

I doubt that even Gates himself will be in the picture by 2015. I suspect by then he'll be happily retired from government service -- for good, if he's got any sense. Many of today's members of Congress will be gone by then, too. President Obama may not even be in the picture by then.

So why, I ask, are we making predictions that are being splashed all over The New York Times that are nothing more than flights of fancy? Sure, I think Pentagon spending is heading down over the next several years, but how in the world can we predict personnel numbers and dollar amounts this far in advance?

The truth is, we can't. It's a political stunt by the Obama Administration trying to show they're ready to get tough on defense spending. For those of us involved in the defense business, don't be too scared yet. There's a lot that will happen between now and then.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
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