March 04, 2013
Credit: David B. Gleason
Budget cuts that force the Pentagon to slash $46 billion in spending this year would do little to relieve long-term financial pressures facing the military, but it could lead the services to begin addressing the issue, analysts said on Friday.
Once the Pentagon puts civilian employees on unpaid leave, shortens flying hours, delays ship maintenance and takes other steps to address the cuts known as sequestration that go into effect late on Friday, it will still face rising costs in healthcare, pay and benefits, and weapons development, they said.
Spending on military pay and benefits has increased by nearly 50 percent over the past decade, and weapons development is still beset by unexpected cost jumps despite procurement reforms - factors that won’t be altered by the new round of spending cuts.
“I think it actually makes the prospects of reform more difficult,” said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment think tank.
The across-the-board cuts, which reduce most accounts by a flat percentage, would create disarray that would likely force the Pentagon to slow weapons development programs and renegotiate contracts, driving up costs, he said.
“It’s just going to create a bunch of mess and make us less efficient and ultimately reduce (the Pentagon’s) buying power long-term by causing unit costs to go up,” Harrison said.
But Gordon Adams, an American University professor who worked on defense spending at the White House budget office in the 1990s, said the cuts could help restore a sense of discipline at the Pentagon after a decade of rapid growth and two wars.