It’s time we ditch the two percent (or any percent) of GDP metric for allied defense spending and focus on what really matters—capability, capacity, readiness, and interoperability. In the end, it’s not about how much of our allies’ economic output is directed to defense, and this metric does little to incentivize the results we want to see.
One of the often-used excuses given by Congress not to authorize a new round of Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) is that the military is currently growing and could use the excess capacity to house that growth. But executing a BRAC round while the force is scheduled to grow will allow DoD to think critically about where that growth should go, instead of simply sending it to where there is room.
The DoD audit might be worthwhile if it succeeds in finding large amounts of waste and inefficiency. But it won’t and frankly can’t. The audit produced a number of useful findings related to internal controls for information technology and financial reporting. But are these alone sufficient to justify the entire time, effort, and money the audit consumed? Probably not.
The OCO budget has been taken advantage of to skirt defense spending limits and to fund base budget activities that do not actually constitute war funding. However, moving all of OCO’s enduring costs into the base budget for the final two years of the Budget Control Act caps may not be politically expedient for passing a budget agreement for FY 2020 and FY 2021.
The proposed creation of a new military service for space, known as the Space Force, is likely to be a hotly debated issue in the FY 2020 legislative cycle. This brief provides rough estimates for the number of military and civilian personnel, the number and locations of bases, the budget lines that would transfer to the new organization, and the additional personnel and headquarters organization that would be needed for the new military service.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy elevated security cooperation in stressing the importance of “Strengthening alliances and attracting new partners.” This has typically been an area of strength for the United States in ensuring U.S. superiority in an era of strategic competition. However, countervailing priorities in the current U.S. administration challenge this formulation.
As we reach the endgame of 2018, it is hard to be sanguine about the state of defense. DoD leadership should be commended for pushing forward with daily business amid myriad distractions and obstacles as their approach has led to greater normalcy compared to counterparts at other agencies. Yet far-reaching changes are necessary to advance the defense agenda laid out by Secretary Mattis.
The National Defense Strategy calls for “modernization of key capabilities through sustained, predictable budgets,” yet the unclassified summary and FY 2019 budget request fail to show how the Department of Defense will fund such a priority in the face of long-term, strategic competition with China and Russia.
Discussion over transatlantic security spending has increasingly focused on whether NATO members are spending 2% of their GDP on defense and the merits of 2% as a metric for assessing burden sharing. In addition to analyzing current NATO metrics, this report examines several alternatives that provide a broader understanding of collective security contributions and could improve the rigor of security spending analysis.