“By the end of the year it ought to become clear that the Bundeswehr will become smaller, but better.” This is how German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg framed his plans to cut the German army by around a third last month.
Well. Maybe. Or maybe you’ll just end up with a smaller Bundeswehr. The story doesn’t state it, but it does imply that tight fiscal restraints result in better defense policy, and that less fiscal restraint results in intellectual stagnation. No evidence to that effect is shown, however.
In these austere times, it won’t be long before we see people coming after the defense budget here in the US as well. Unfortunately for some of these folks, the military is the single most trusted institution in the nation. And with US troops abroad in two separate wars, any call for trimming the defense budget will almost certainly be met with charges that liberals want to deprive troops of the tools they need to do their jobs.
That’s where this “do more with less” argument will come in. Supporters of slashing the defense budget will claim that by downsizing the defense establishment, they’ll actually produce efficiencies.
But they won’t. See, almost always when the DoD is faced with budget cuts, the first cuts go to troop force levels, rather than to the institutional side of the house. That’s like IBM slashing its work force by laying off salesmen and engineers without trimming any of the management layers that exist to service them. It’s a net loss.
Oh, we’ll see a lot of arguments in the news about high profile weapons programs that are over budget. And truth be told, I’d swing a pretty sharp axe through those myself if I were in charge. But the fact is, a smaller defense budget outlay is going to hurt the troop on the ground more than any other facet of the military.
As a guy who remembers the bad old days of having to buy your own toilet paper and cleaning supplies in the barracks, I don’t think this is going to end well.