Less money, less faith in US 'pivot'

Henry L. Stimson's picture
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The United States' military of the 21st century will be leaner, not by strategic choice but rather fiscal necessity. The new US defense budget aims to reduce army personnel to levels not seen since before World War II. While a heavily indebted US must learn to do more with less, its strategic partners around the globe, including in Asia, must likewise downgrade their expectations and boost their burden-sharing.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a research institute focused on global security issues, 4.4% of US gross domestic produce was spent on defense in 2012, a slight dip from the decade-high 4.8% spent in 2009 and 2010. Even at this reduced level, military spending was still US$689 billion, or about 19% of the total federal budget. Under the new budget proposal, spending will be reduced to $496 billion.

The public is war-weary after the extended and inconclusive campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, and defense is widely seen as a budgetary line item conducive to savings. In a 2012 survey conducted by the Stimson Center think tank, respondents were unanimous in their desire to slash military spending, with proposed cuts amounting to an average of $103.5 billion, or about 18% of the 2012 budget. Those cuts were far higher than those put forward by either Republicans or Democrats in congress.

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