Congress: Why should each military branch get same budget?
House panel study, expected this week, may lead to Air Force, Navy getting smaller portion of defense spending.
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Congress is asking the same questions that many in and out of uniform have raised for some time. "After seven years of war, that we haven't budged one inch away from the cold war apportionment of the budget to me is Kafka-esque," said Robert Scales Jr., a retired Army major general, speaking last week at a think tank. "I just can't explain it. I don't understand."Skip to next paragraph
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The Pentagon has begun its own internal review of roles and missions. But with budgetary planners essentially in limbo until a new administration arrives next year, it's unclear how much impact such discussions will have, says Loren Thompson, a senior analyst at The Lexington Institute, a think tank outside Washington.
It may serve to create a debate in anticipation of the broader effort to review the nation's strategic planning document, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). But when all is said and done, it's likely that things will remain largely the same, Mr. Thompson says.
"My guess is, when the roles and missions and QDR processes are complete, the historic share of the services will not change much in the defense budget," he says.
But such talk of budgetary reform can sound like fighting words to some inside the Pentagon, as Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged earlier this month during hearings on Capitol Hill.
"What I worry about in this ... is that, not done well, it has a tendency to turn services against each other," Admiral Mullen said.
And moving money from one service to another can be politically insurmountable. Each service, with its own political constituency on Capitol Hill, carefully guards what belongs to it.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have emphasized the need for ground troops, leading to focus on the Army and Marine Corps. Meanwhile, while the Navy and Air Force both contribute much to operations overseas, they are seen as virtual "silent partners."
That has forced both services to step up their marketing efforts. The Navy is holding events it calls "Conversations with the Country" in an effort to call attention to its new maritime strategy, which focuses on fighting terrorism in untraditional ways. And the Air Force on Sunday launched a new ad campaign to highlight the allure of the nation's air superiority, employing a marketing theme titled "Above All."