Zero Faith

Remember the $100 billion that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the services could keep for modernization if they found enough savings in overhead? Well, that may not happen, Marine Gen. James Cartwright told attendees last week at the Credit Suisse/Aviation Week aerospace and defense finance conference in New York. Cartwright, Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman, said he has “zero faith” the Pentagon will be able to hang onto all the cash because it will likely be forced to surrender at least some of it on the altar of overall federal deficit reduction. “I don’t think it will be in large portions” at first, Cartwright said. But $100 billion is a tempting target and, “as the pressure comes on the budget,” Pentagon accounts will probably be raided at a “greater rate,” he said, adding, “It’s just logical.” Cartwright said he wasn’t sure whether the Office of Management and Budget would whack Pentagon funding for specific programs or at “a macro level.” In any case, the goal of real growth in the DOD budget (or even just keeping pace with inflation) is rapidly fading into memory. “There are realities out there” which the Pentagon will have to confront, he said during his Dec. 2 speech. (See also Reuters report)