January 02, 2005

The Pentagon's New Budget

Fred Kaplan tackles the ins and outs of the Pentagon budget process. It's a bit unwieldy, but the basic lesson is that, because of the way money is appropriated and spent, all those recent cuts in spending authority won't translate into actual spending cuts for a long while.

Meanwhile, it seems vaguely ridiculous to me that Congress can approve a five-year, multi-billion dollar weapons program one year, and then cancel it the next. On the bright side, yes, you can eliminate a lot of waste this way. But on the not-so-bright side, Pentagon planners spend a lot of time defending the merits of individual programs each year, rather than focusing on long-term strategic planning. In The Pentagon's New Map, Thomas Barnett notes that, during the 1990s, Pentagon planners would actually start creating and projecting distant threats (like China) in order to justify big, expensive programs year after year, like aircraft carriers. Clearly something is awry here.
-- Brad Plumer 8:00 PM || ||