WASHINGTON Feb 5 Big budget cuts over the next
decade will force the Pentagon to make painful cuts to personnel
and readiness and could make it hard to execute a global
security strategy, defense analysts predicted on Wednesday.
Teams of analysts from four think tanks, who unveiled the
results of a defense budget-cutting exercise at a Capitol Hill
briefing, all found themselves slashing large numbers of
civilian and uniformed personnel, along with ships and fighter
jets, to help meet tough budget targets facing the Pentagon.
"It is very, very hard to reach the required level of budget
savings in the first ... (five-year planning period) if you
don't touch personnel, readiness or both, frankly, because
that's where the money is," said Nora Bensahel, a fellow at the
Center for a New American Security.
"You can't do it by just picking out a few systems here and
there," she said.
The analysts unveiled their thinking on the 2015 defense
budget and U.S. military strategy just a month before the
Pentagon releases its own budget for the upcoming fiscal year as
well as the Quadrennial Defense Review, a document produced
every four years aligning U.S. strategy and resources.
The budget drill, developed by Todd Harrison of the Center
for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, required participants
to design two budget scenarios, one cutting spending by $330
billion over a decade as required by current law, and a second
reducing it by nearly $200 billion over the same period.
The four teams could rebalance spending among 800 categories
to achieve their strategic aims.
All teams cut the civilian defense workforce by 100,000 or
more in the first five-year planning period, known as the Future
Years Defense Program. The teams slashed the size of the Army,
which is currently shrinking to 490,000, by another 70,000 to
The four teams all reduced the number of U.S. aircraft
carriers and destroyers under both scenarios, eliminated the
active-duty A-10 Warthog aircraft, retired two variants of the
F/A-18 fighter, and authorized a round of base closures.
Three of the four teams increased the number of
nuclear-powered submarines, and most put more money into
protecting satellite communications and offensive cyber
Thomas Donnelly, an analyst at the American Enterprise
Institute, said the cuts required under the 2011 Budget Control
Act passed by Congress were so big they tended to eliminate
differences between the teams.
"When you take away that much money it's hard to
differentiate," he said. "You can rearrange the deck chairs but
you're still on the Titanic."
The AEI team also tested a strategy focused on maintaining a
reasonable force in the Middle East while increasing the U.S.
presence in Asia. The cost was about $800 billion more than
allowed under current plans for the next decade, but less than
the defense budget before 2011.
Donnelly said the implication was that if the Pentagon does
fully implement the 2011 defense cuts, "our ability to execute a
global strategy is going to be really tenuous at best."
(Reporting by David Alexander, editing by Tom Brown)