Friday, March 30, 2012

The Chairmen Doth Protest Too Much

News today of a little dust-up developing between Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Chairman of the House Budget Committee.  Here's how it goes:

Representative Paul Ryan said yesterday:  “We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget. I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget.”

General Dempsey retorted:  " “There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus … calling us, collectively, liars,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”

First, Ryan's statement was unwise, impolitic, and technically, untrue.  The generals ARE giving their true advice--or as true as they are capable of giving--on THE BUDGET.  The budget they presented is their very best collective effort to match the resources available to the strategic guidance they were given.   They are doing a reasonably good job doing what THEY are supposed to do. But they do not determine the "resources available". 

Dempsey is also wrong.  As long as Dempsey defines "the process" as being that part of the give and take among the Services, the COCOMS, OSD and the White House that occurred AFTER the $487B bill had been handed them, he's on solid ground.  But that doesn't truly define the whole process--and THAT is what Ryan is getting at.  The $487B bill handed OSD (as a result of a deal with which Congressional Republicans went along) followed close on the heels of two years of cuts that nearly equal that figure.  The suggestion--easily inferred from the CJCS' half-defense--that the Service Chiefs would have voluntarily ponied up the $487B because that is what makes the most sense for the national defense of the US--is disingenuous.  

UPDATE:  For those who wish to view the CJCS as "apolitical" (a view I do not share),  his changing view of the impact of sequestration cuts strikes some as toeing the Administration line. 

Bryan McGrath

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