Political gridlock in Washington triggered across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, in March. As a result, the Pentagon was given six months to eliminate $41 billion from the current year's budget, and unlike past cuts, this time everything is on the table. In 2011, America spent $711 billion dollars on its defense-more than the next 13 highest spending countries combined. But the burdens it shoulders, both at home and abroad, are unprecedented. Could the sequester be a rare opportunity to overhaul the armed forces, or will its impact damage military readiness and endanger national security?
Presented in Partnership with The McCain Institute for International Leadership
Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security policy analyst, is the co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI. He is the coauthor with Frederick W. Kagan of Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields (2010). Among his recent books are Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power (2008), Of Men and Materiel: The Crisis in Military Resources (2007), The Military We Need (2005); and Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Strategic Assessment (2004). From 1995 to 1999, he was policy group director and a professional staff member for the House Committee on Armed Services. Donnelly also served as a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He is a former editor of Armed Forces Journal, Army Times, and Defense News.
Benjamin H. Friedman
Benjamin H. Friedman is a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies. His areas of expertise include counter-terrorism, homeland security and defense politics. He is the author of dozens of op-eds and journal articles and co-editor of two books, including Terrorizing Ourselves: Why U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing and How to Fix It, published in 2010. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and an affiliate of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. is President president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He assumed this position in 1993, following a 21-year career in the U.S. Army. Krepinevich has served in the Department of Defense's Office of Net Assessment and on the personal staff of three secretaries of defense. He currently serves on the Chief of Naval Operations' (CNO's) Advisory Board and on the Army Special Operations Command's Advisory Board. Krepinevich has served as a consultant on military affairs for many senior government officials, including several secretaries of defense, the CIA's National Intelligence Council, and all four military services. Krepinevich's most recent book is 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century. Krepinevich received the 1987 Furniss Award for his book, The Army and Vietnam.
Kori Schake is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. She is also the Bradley Professor of International Security Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Her areas of research interest are national security strategy, the effective use of military force, and European politics.
During President George W. Bush's first term, she was the director for Defense Strategy and Requirements on the National Security Council. She was responsible for advising the president, White House chief of staff, and national security adviser on defense issues, including the secretary of defense's annual review of the defense program and the president's annual meeting with the Combatant Commanders; developing presidential policy initiatives; and orchestrating interagency coordination for all long-term defense planning and coalition maintenance issues.
Hoover Institution research fellow Kori Schake warns the gift to our enemies isn't a smaller military; it's out-of-control government spending. She adds there is an "enormous" margin for error when considering defense cuts.
Retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich cites the history of the British Empire as reason to maintain a strong military. Though "Pax Britannica" was a relatively peaceful period during the 19th century, once British power waned the world plunged into two consecutive and deadly wars.
Benjamin Friedman of the Cato Institute argues foreign belligerents such as Iran and North Korea (and even our old adversary Russia) are no match for the U.S. Armed Forces, and suggests that the nation could benefit from a reduction in costly conventional forces.
Retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich argues that any reductions to American defense spending would increase the risk of global threats. According to Krepinevich, the United States would lose the capability to counteract cyber and technological attacks.
Hoover Institution research fellow Kori Schake asserts that trimming military surpluses won't embolden our enemies. According to Schake, enemies will take the fight to our greatest weaknesses, and those are the areas were attention should be paid.