Cutback Budgeting: Doing More With Less Money

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in January on its first night flight (Credit/Lockheed Martin)

Conflict in America’s strategic hierarcy exposes potential danger from Obama

Leading From Behind

Cutback budgeting is by definition more than marginal change, a standard that shows how Barack Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 will further disappoint those who believe in fiscal responsibility to reduce the national debt and grow the economy.

“The Joint Strike Fighter … will continue but at a reduced level,” Obama said in his budget, giving an example of his decision to try reducing the budget deficit through marginal cuts.

But insisting the U.S. is still “100 percent committed to the development of the F-35,” recent reports from elsewhere in the administration expose deeper conflict lurking in America’s strategic hierarchy (Table 1).

Primary Focus Primary Participants Primary Policies Primary Input Primary Output
National Strategies National objectives Chief of state; Governmental advisers National policies National power National plans
National Security Strategies National security objectives Chief of state; Security advisers National security policies Suitable national power National security plans
National Military Strategies National military objectives Chief of state; Military advisers National military policies Military power National military plans
Regional Strategies Regional objectives Foreign ministers; Ambassadors Foreign policies Diplomacy; Economic levers International accords
Theater Military Strategies Theater military missions Defense ministers; CINCs Unilateral or coalition policies Unilateral or coalition forces Unilateral or coalition plans and ops
Operational Art and Tactics Subordinate military missions Subordinate military commanders Uniservice or joint policies Uniservice or joint forces Uniservice or joint plans and ops

Table 1. U.S. strategic hierarchy (CINCs: regional commanders in chief).

Defense analysts explain some of the conflict caused by Obama’s budget decision:

Consider the case of the F-35 Joint Strike fighter program. The Obama Pentagon has reduced the 2013 purchase of Lightnings from 42 to 29 and reduced the planned five-year buy by more than 100 aircraft. This will drive the cost of each F-35 up, yet again; the development costs of the plane remain the same regardless. And because the JSF program has been an international effort since its conception, Obama’s decision increases the cost for everyone.

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American Forces Press Service, “U.S. Remains Committed to F-35 Program, Panetta Says,” U.S. Department of Defense, March 28, 2012.

Richard Cleary and Thomas Donnelly, “Leading Indicator of Decline,” The Weekly Standard, February 16, 2012.

John M. Collins, Military Strategy (Washington: Brassey’s, 2002).

Shane McGlaun, “Canada Considers Cutting F-35 Lightning II Orders,” Daily Tech, March 14, 2012.

James D. Savage and Herman M Schwartz, “Cutback Budgeting,” in Handbook of Government Budgeting, ed. Roy T. Meyers (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999).

Barack Obama, “Fiscal Year 2013 Budget of the U.S. Government,” February 13, 2012.