Financial Crisis Constricts US Defense Budget
Michael O’Hanlon | Brookings Institution | February 2009
Recently arrived in office,
US President Obama has
announced an increase of 17,000 American troops in Afghanistan. Experts consider at
least twice this amount necessary for progress. At the same time US Defense
Secretary Robert Gates is realizing that the Pentagon will not be spared from
the effects of the financial crisis. Indeed, the highest departmental cuts in
expenditure are looming in the near future. The 2009 Pentagon budget is 515
billion US dollars - not including the price of the engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. The purchase of new
military equipment is also debated, such as F-22 fighter jets and aircraft
In the face of the financial crisis, Michael O'Hanlon suggests restructuring the Defense budget. While spending on the Pentagon should be decreased, diplomacy and foreign development aid should be increased. There is evidence that policies are moving in this direction, as seen the current National Defense Strategy, which puts the importance of nation building and stability and peace missions on par with fighting traditional enemies. Long-term goals such as the abolition of nuclear arms worldwide and securing energy supplies are also hard to achieve through traditional means. Challenges like nuclear crises in Iran or Pakistan, a resurgent Russia, China's growing power and the Middle East conflict are countered more effectively through diplomacy and aid programs.
This does not mean that the engagements in Afghanistan or Iraq should be forgotten. However, the financial crisis is forcing the United States to restrict its recently exorbitant defense expenditure. It is important to finally get spending under control. The financial crisis also threatens the stability of volatile countries such as Pakistan, who are strategically significant for the US. A glimmer of hope remains: the financial crisis is also affecting countries that are thorns in the side of the US, such as Iran, who has lost its principle source of revenue due to falling oil prices. This could cause Iran, in the short or long term, to compromise on its nuclear program.
This summary was prepared by the Atlantic Community editorial team from "Resources for "Hard Power": The 2010 Budget for Defense, Homeland Security, and Related Programs," published here by the Brookings Institution, February 2009.