DC Think Tanks Present Alternative Defense Budgets, Propose Increase to Air Force, Cuts to Army

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The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) unveiled last week the results of an exercise designed to offer alternatives to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 Budget and Quadrennial Defense Review. Teams of analysts from CSBA, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) presented their findings to an audience of congressional defense staffers.
 

The exercise ask the four teams to develop strategies to rebalance the Defense Department’s major capabilities under two scenarios:

1.       Follow the Budget Control Act with modified caps reflecting the Ryan-Murray budget agreement; and

2.       Operating under budgets cuts halfway between the fiscal 2014 Presidential Budget baseline and Budget Control Act cuts.

While CSBA set scenario parameters to allow the teams to make budget choices based on capability rather than services, all teams called for increased funding for the Air Force over the next 10 years. The increased funding for the Air Force was offset through significant cuts to ground forces. This includes reducing the active-component Army’s end-strength to less than 400,000 in some cases.

The need for large standing ground forces for near-term defense has diminished, though several teams recognized the inability to accurately predict threats to national security in the next 10 to 20 years.

Three of the four teams recommended minor reductions in Army Guard and Army Reserve end-strengths. Only the CSIS team recommended offsetting some of the cuts to the active Army by increasing the Army Guard and Reserve end-strength as a strategic hedge. Importantly, CSIS further noted that shifting heavier ground forces into the National Guard allows the Army to retain a sizable force for large-scale ground operations at a reduced operating cost.

ARNG End-strength Recommendations by Think Tank, Scenario

The Guard offers critical solutions to the problems outlined by the four think tanks’ projections.

Teams called for greater investment in building partner capacity with friendly nations, reconfiguring the division of labor between allies and enhancing regional security cooperation.  The National Guard can be heavily relied upon as units have been actively participating in building partnership capacity with friendly nations through the State Partnership Program. 

All teams called for significant funding for cyber offensive and defensive capabilities. Guard units stand poised to be an integral part of the evolving cyber battlefield by tapping into the civilian expertise of its citizen soldiers.

As the Defense Department and Congress seek to address potential threats to national security in the next decade and beyond, reports such as theses illustrate to lawmakers, Defense Department officials and the general public the utility of the National Guard from an operational and fiscal perspective.

Full video and slides from the CSBA event can be found here.

 

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