Our military services and national security leaders are consumed right now with reductions to defense budgets. Whether from years of continuing resolutions, sequestration, or just less funding in general, our military will have to adjust to getting fewer dollars to protect our nation’s security interests. At the same time, the world continues to present challenges to U.S. interests, including instability in North Africa and the Middle East, regular provocations from Iran and North Korea, and territorial disputes between China and its neighbors. Our military will need an affordable and effective approach to counter coercion and assure access to places where conflict is most likely and consequential.
The caps established in 2011 by the Budget Control Act place defense spending at the same level as the early 2000s. This level of funding was sufficient to organize, train, and equip a force able to defeat Saddam Hussein’s military, deter Chinese aggression against Taiwan, and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. But our fiscal situation is different today. Personnel and infrastructure maintenance costs have risen by double-digit percentages since 2003 as our services took on new missions, such as defending allies from ballistic missiles and countering piracy and illicit trafficking. Meanwhile, our competitors are more capable than a decade ago thanks to proliferation of weapons and other military technology. Less funding will compel us to reprioritize our efforts and make some hard choices with respect to the size and shape of our forces. This does not mean we will be unable to address our nation’s security needs, but we will need to focus our investments and operations on our most important interests.