Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rare Think Tank Convergence on Defense Cuts

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that more than two dozen military analysts from 10 major think tanks are planning to release a joint letter Monday (June 3, 2013) urging politicians to close military bases, overhaul the military's health care program, and cut the size of the Pentagon's civilian workforce.

Signatories (or think tanks where a scholar is a signatory) include:
  • Cato Institute
  • American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • Center for American Progress (CAP)
  • Brookings Institution
  • Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
  • Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA)
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  • Foreign Policy Initiative
  • Stimson Center

Todd Harrison, a defense specialist at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) is reportedly sprearheading the think tank campaign.

An event will be held on June 3 on Capitol Hill for the release of the joint think tank letter.

In related defense news, a group of four think tanks went to Capitol Hill yesterday (May 29) to hold what is being described as a "defense budget simulation game."  The four think tanks involved were:
  • CSBA
  • AEI
  • Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

CSBA reportedly hosted the simulation, where the think tanks were tasked with deciding how they would shape the Pentagon budget over the next decade if they had to cut $500 billion, the amount of the sequester over 10 years, or half that amount, a scenario some envision if a budget compromise is reached.

CSBA is calling the simulation a "Strategic Choices Exercise" and says it was held to "inform public debate."

Here is how CSBA describes the task of the four think tanks:
Each team was asked to develop a defense strategy and rebalance DoD’s portfolio of capabilities in a reduced budget environment.  Using CSBA’s rebalancing tool and methodology, the teams chose from several hundred pre-costed options to add or cut from the projected defense program over the next ten years, including major units of force structure, end strength, bases, readiness, civilian personnel, weapon systems, and modernization programs.  Each team had to weigh its decisions within the context of both Budget Control Act (BCA)-level cuts in defense spending and a lower reduction of half the BCA cut. Each team’s cuts and adds had to be consistent with the budget-level options considered by the Strategic Choices and Management Review that the Pentagon is wrapping up this week. The exercise was timed to inform the thinking on the way defense resources are allocated in light of declining budgets.

The briefing slides from the think tank participants can be found here.  Those that participated include:

The think tanks simulation was timed to coincide with a similar Department of Defense analysis, the Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR), which will lay out options for defense spending under three possible funding scenarios.  That report is set for release on May 31, 2013.

More about the think tank simulation can be read here.