Editorial

The very point of the Pentagon’s quadrennial review of its military planning is to take account of changes in the world that affect this country’s defense needs. The most recent review, presented last spring by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, demonstrates that our military establishment has missed the point. The world has changed greatly. The Pentagon has not. The better part of a decade after the demise of the Soviet Union, the Pentagon has let stand a defense doctrine inherited from the Bush administration: America ought to be able to fight two major wars simultaneously in different parts of the world without the assistance of allies. In the post-Soviet era this doctrine has outlived its usefulness and needlessly drains the country’s resources.

Thus, the newly approved Gingrich-Clinton budget calls for roughly $265 billion in defense spending in fiscal year 1998. That sum accounts for 50 percent of total discretionary spending in the new budget. The next largest item-$31 billion-is for education. True, the Department of Defense (DOD)’s annual budget has declined steadily since the mid-1980s’ Reagan arms build-up (down from $405 billion in 1985 to $268 billion last year-both figures in 1997 dollars), but that should not obscure the real issue: Given the end of the cold war, why are we still spending so much? In point of fact, DOD’s budget this year is larger than the next eight leading national defense...

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