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Though we are drawing down our forces in the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Panetta have been careful to warn that global demands on U.S. forces are not diminishing, particularly as our focus shifts to the Asia Pacific.
To that end, the Pentagon is finalizing its “AirSea Battle” concept that will define how we ensure continued access to the Asia Pacific region amid a rising China that aspires to assert its regional military and economic power, excluding the United States.
Undermining the military’s future ability to project power and embrace a 21st-century readiness posture in the Asia Pacific by blindly slashing defense spending is not only unwise, it is downright dangerous.
All this is not to say there isn’t room for improvement in financial and acquisition management within the Department of Defense.
Panetta, at the urging of Congress, has directed his department to accelerate plans to get its financial books in order. He has accelerated the timeline for a clean audit of all the department’s receipts, expenditures and obligations a full three years ahead of the Congressionally mandated deadline. This will provide Congress and taxpayers an unprecedented ability to eliminate inefficiency, waste and fraud.
Starting the discussion with budget caps and program cuts puts the cart before the horse. While this might bring short-term savings, history tells us it will have significant long-term costs in both American lives and treasure.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) is chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.