U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the largest reduction in the Pentagon's budget (WashPost) since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The projected savings will total $78 billion over five years, effectively freezing the budget in 2015 and 2016. While funding for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (BBC) will not be cut, overall troop levels will shrink by 6 percent and some of the most costly weapons programs will be scrapped. Gates cited extreme fiscal duress as the primary justification, referencing both the global economic crisis (NYT) as well as domestic pressures. According to Gates, the proposed budget represents the minimum level of defense spending that is necessary, given the complex and unpredictable array of security challenges the United States faces around the globe.
On Capitol Hill (Bloomberg), responses to the statements were predictably mixed, with some conservatives characterizing the announcement as a dangerous signal and some liberals criticizing the modesty of the cutbacks. Despite the partisan fervor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said the military commanders supported (WSJ) the proposals.
On his blog Contentions, CFR Fellow Max Boot discusses the proposed budget cuts, arguing such efforts to deal with government spending should not be accomplished through defense cutbacks.
On ForeignPolicy.com, David Rothkopf describes a new era for the military that will profoundly affect the United States' ability to act on the global stage.
Foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum suggests the plans for bipartisan deficit reduction stress the need to tighten U.S. foreign policy priorities, even if U.S. allies fail to pick up the slack.