From the Director’s Chair
By: Kathleen Hicks
With all of the international turmoil that has swirled this summer, it is worth pausing to ask what effect world events are having on the debate in Washington over the federal budget and sequestration. There is no dearth of rhetoric occurring, of course, excoriating everyone from the current administration to the former administration to Vladimir Putin to Nouri al-Malaki to illegal immigrant children. And there are plenty of new spending proposals. In late June, President Obama submitted a $58.6 billion fiscal year 2015 budget request for overseas contingency operations, including a $5 billion counterterrorism partnership fund, a $500 million fund to train Syrian opposition forces, and another $1 billion fund for a European Reassurance Initiative. More recently, he submitted a $3.7 billion emergency funding request to manage the migrant children problem on the southwest border.
Should we be optimistic that a broader debate about federal spending, and the security portion of that spending, is around the corner given that all of these proposals for funding are now surfacing? Unfortunately, the answer is a decided no. As David Berteau convincingly writes in his budget update below, no legislative action to alter sequestration or reach a long-term budget deal will occur before the November midterm election and likely not until a new Congress is sworn in.
In the meantime, there is continued confusion over how the United States will lead on the world stage amid significant geopolitical challenges and with sequestration caps firmly in place for the foreseeable future. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect to this disconnect is the lack of any real discussion in Washington about it. Indeed, righteous indignation has given way to general resignation, but it has seemingly failed to generate needed energy to identify a strategy-to-budget (or even budget-to-strategy) solution. Clark Murdock and Ryan Crotty have recently authored a report containing their own proposals for how to do just that. Perhaps interested members of Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House can work together quietly over the next several months to develop a strategy that meets the country’s self-imposed fiscal constraints for security while advancing the most important interests we have as a nation. If nothing else, such an exercise could demonstrate the perils of cutting our security budgets too far when so much is at stake in the world.