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For the Media

Pentagon Budget May Dominate Panetta Confirmation

WHO:    Dr. Gordon Adams, a professor of U.S. Foreign Policy at American University’s School of International Service, is a former associate director for national security and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget (1993-1997). He worked closely with then Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.  Adams has published widely on defense and national security policy, the defense policy process, and national security budgets.

WHAT:   Available for television, print, and radio interviews           

WHEN:  June 9 – ongoing

WHERE:  In-studio, via telephone, or at American University.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 9) Dr. Gordon Adams, a professor of U.S. Foreign Policy at American University’s School of International Service, oversaw all U.S. foreign affairs and national security budgeting including the Department of Defense and intelligence community at OMB from 1993-1997.  

With the Pentagon winding up its mission in Iraq and beginning troop withdrawals in Afghanistan next month, the most contentious part of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s confirmation hearings today may center around the increasing pressure to cut Pentagon spending as part of a defense build-down.   Senators will likely be very sensitive to constituencies most adversely affected by such a build-down including military personnel and defense contractors – jobs that may shrink as the Pentagon budget declines.  In spite of political theater that may take place, Adams, who worked closely with Panetta in the Clinton White House cautions “Panetta is going to have to get tougher, a lot tougher. . . .” to tame substantial portions of the defense budget that are currently out of control.  

In Gordon Adams’s latest published article appearing in Foreign Policy, "Unfinished Business: Ten huge challenges Bob Gates leaves behind," ( he outlines 10 challenges Panetta must solve as secretary of defense including: mission creep, cutting back on the militarization of civilian agency functions, cutting overhead that consumes 40 percent of the defense budget and more than 30 percent of active duty forces attention, cutting weapon costs, controlling pay, health, and retirement costs, closing bases, and cutting the number of troops.  Adams describes some of these as a “political ‘third rail’” for secretaries but notes the time has come and DoD study groups have recommended them for years despite the all but certain political ramifications.  

Whereas Adams is critical of Gates fighting “budgetary trench warfare year by year, trying to protect real growth in his resources and arguing it was absolutely necessary,” he warns, “Panetta will have to craft the new, unpopular, but necessary message for the service planners.  And that message will need to describe in stark terms what the coming era of cuts will be like – something well beyond the $400 billion over 12 years that the White House recently set as its target.”  Adams argues “the reality is more accurately reflected in the Simpson-Bowles, Rivlin-Domenici, and Frank-Paul projections, which foresee defense budgets declining by $500 billion to $1 trillion over the next 10 years.”

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