Analysis: DoD spending cuts small in context of history

Tuesday - 11/1/2011, 6:03pm EDT

Gordon Adams, former associate director, OMB

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The Defense Department is looking for cuts of $465 billion over the next decade. One budget expert says it's not that much money in the context of past spending draw downs.

"Defense budgets go up and they go down, and they have gone up and gone down every 20 years or so ever since the second World War," said Gordon Adams, a professor of international relations at American University and former associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.

Past draw downs have translated into a 30 percent decrease of constant dollars over a ten-year period. The cuts DoD are proposing would in fact only be an 8 percent decrease of projected resources for the department, Adams said.

"Even if we had a trillion dollar build down, it would be relatively modest compared to ones we've had in the past," he said.

Some in Congress and the defense industry have fought spending cuts, saying jobs will be at stake. Adams' response to this argument is any reduction in federal spending will result in jobs being lost.

He calls the argument by industry "hypocritical."

"Employment in the defense industry has been cut by 1.5 million in the last 25, 30 years," he said. "industry is not afraid to shed people when it's in its business interest."

Another argument against further military cuts is the potential threat to combat readiness. Adams said the nature of war has changed over the decades from "your granddad's tanks and ships and planes" to a more technological kind of readiness.

In that technological space, DoD is relying more on commercial acquisitions.

"I'm much less concerned about lack of readiness in what used to be your granddad's industrial base because we have a very strong technological base we're already drawing on," Adams said.

Read Adam's column in Capital Gains and Games.