Monday, September 25, 2006

The Army's Budget Revolt

The Los Angeles Times is reporting today that the U.S. Army's chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, "withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding."
"Schoomaker failed to submit the budget plan by an Aug. 15 deadline. The protest followed a series of cuts in the service's funding requests by both the White House and Congress over the last four months."
The protest is said to be "unprecedented." Also unprecedented is the Army's budget request for $138.8 billion in 2008, which is "nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld." According to the Times --
"The Army's budget this year is $98.2 billion, making Schoomaker's request a 41% increase over current levels."
Times sources say Rumsfeld initially proposed a cut of $2 billion in current year funding. Schoomaker's protest was inspired by the declining readiness of regular Army manpower and resources being drained by Bush's Iraq war.
"The Army, with an active-duty force of 504,000, has been stretched by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. About 400,000 have done at least one tour of combat duty, and more than a third of those have been deployed twice. Commanders have increasingly complained of the strain, saying last week that sustaining current levels will require more help from the National Guard and Reserve or an increase in the active-duty force.

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"Schoomaker has been vocal in recent months about a need to expand war funding legislation to pay for repair of hundreds of tanks and armored fighting vehicles after heavy use in Iraq."
The Army is nearly broken. Two big questions that remain are whether the Bush administration can be forced into fixing it -- and how much it will cost U.S. taxpayers to repair the damage.

Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (also reviewed on line by James McCormick):
"In my opinion, key internal element in Rome's success or failure was the economic well-being of its taxpayers. This was because the empire relied for its security on a professional army, which in turn relied on adequate funding."

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"Military expenditure was by far the largest item in the imperial budget, and there were no massive departments of state ... whose spending could be cut when necessary in order to protect "Defence"; nor did the credit mechanisms exist in Antiquity that would have allowed the empire to borrow substantial sums of money in an emergency. Military capability relied on immediate access to taxable wealth."
But we have those "credit mechanisms" today. This explains why a third question is necessary, one that was asked by Billmon three years ago after an informative and detailed exposition on the size and meaning of the U.S. debt. This question becomes more and more relevant with every passing year of the Bush administration:
"What are the long-term implications of an imperial America increasingly dependent on the financial support of its primary long-term rival: China?"

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