By THOM SHANKER Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said that plans are nothing, but planning is everything because no war plan survives first contact with the enemy. Therefore, the military should hone its ability for continuous planning.
In the decades since, the Pentagon has excelled at nothing as much as planning for every conceivable - and sometimes inconceivable - contingency.
So it is more than a little surprising that a range of Defense Department and military officials say there is no formal planning under way on how the Pentagon budget could or should be trimmed further.
Cuts of $500 billion over the next 10 years, representing roughly 5 to 8 percent of the Pentagon's budget, would begin to take effect if the White House and Congress fail to reach an accord before the end of the year. The reductions would occur across the board. Even if there is a deal on taxes and spending to avoid the automatic cuts, it is a safe bet that the deal would impose additional budget reductions on the Pentagon.
Pentagon officials and military officers do not say it out loud, but their public inaction reflects a fear that any planning on cuts would amount to an invitation to Congress to make them. The Pentagon could then face larger reductions than it otherwise might as part of any deficit deal.
What programs could be vulnerable? Experts offer varying proposals, of course, depending on what branch of the military they think is most important and what sort of world they predict America will face.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, noted in a recent talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that there are only three large baskets of spending from which savings can be found: personnel costs; equipment costs, both for repairs and new orders; and training costs, like how many bullets are available for firing on practice ranges and how many hours can be logged in jet fighter training flights.
A study released this week by Todd Harrison and Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington research group, recommended protecting a series of military capabilities, which it called "the crown jewels," necessary in a future combat environment. They included: Special Operations forces, cyberspace capabilities, underwater warfare systems and long-range surveillance and strike aircraft, both manned and unmanned.
Gordon Adams, a former Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and an advocate of further military cuts, has said there is unusual agreement among analysts across the political spectrum on the way ahead in military spending.
In an essay for the Web site of Foreign Policy magazine, Mr. Adams said that long-term wars of attrition and nation-building, like in Afghanistan and Iraq, were "over," allowing the ground forces to shrink. Analysts, he wrote, also agree that the United States can reduce its strategic nuclear arsenal, but that research and development should be protected.
Any future reductions for the Pentagon would come on top of $487 billion in spending cuts the Obama administration plans to make over the next decade.
After a decade of sharply rising military spending and revenues diminished by two tax cuts and two recessions, Pentagon officials say that they are aware that a new period has begun. Their goal is to limit the cuts they face to the ones that have already been planned, and to certainly avoid the across-the-board cuts that will start to take effect if Congress does not reach a deal by year's end.
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Military officials, known for planning for any and all contingencies, do not want to give Congress any ideas about programs they see as expendable.
Former President George Bush, 88, is being treated at a Houston hospital, but a spokesman said Thursday that he is in stable condition and expected to be released within the next 72 hours.
It's more than a little surprising that a range of Defense Department and military officials say that there is no additional planning under way on how the Pentagon budget could or should be trimmed further.