Deputy Defense Secretary Says Defense Savings Must Be Balanced, Gradual

As part of a larger deficit-reduction effort, last month President Obama proposed cutting $400 billion from projected defense spending by 2023. Speaking at a conference in New York yesterday, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said that the Department of Defense (DoD) must now find ways to cut spending without affecting overall defense capability and effectiveness.

Calling attention to the urgency of our fiscal challenges, Deputy Secretary Lynn stated:

"This is in fact a matter of national security.  Our security begins with a strong economy.  Our ability to exert global influence and protect our interests abroad will be threatened if we do not reduce the deficit and keep federal debt within sustainable bounds.  No great power can project military force in a sustained manner without the underpinnings of a sound economy.  Our economy is truly the wellspring of our military might.  And it is reeling from an overall imbalance between revenues and expenditures and the expenses of a decade of conflict.  With deficits approaching 10% of the economy, austerity measures are now required to ensure its long-term health."

He went on to reference previous military drawdowns--including the periods after World War II, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and the end of the Cold War--and said that US military capability had "suffered a disproportionate loss" as a result of each of those transitions in defense spending. Learning from these experiences, he said, could help DoD avoid making the same mistakes. Specifically, Deputy Secretary Lynn offered four lessons to be gained from studying these historical examples:

  1. The hardest decisions have to be made early
  2. It will be impossible to generate the necessary savings from efficiencies alone
  3. Spending reductions should be balanced and not focused on a single area
  4. Spending cuts should not be made too quickly, especially in core mission areas.

We applaud Deputy Secretary Lynn for laying out such a balanced and thoughtful approach to generating savings within DoD, and for accepting that the defense budget will have to be part of the solution in order to meaningfully improve our nation's fiscal outlook. As he said:

“The defense budget alone cannot solve our deficit crisis. But it’s hard to envision an overall solution -- either economically or politically -- that does not include some contribution from the 20 percent of government spending that goes toward defense.”

Click here for the full text of Lynn’s remarks.