Cover: Healing the Wounded Giant

Healing the Wounded Giant

Maintaining Military Preeminence while Cutting the Defense Budget

Sequestration and U.S. Defense Spending: Healing the Wounded Giant


Barack Obama may have survived a tenuous economy and a bitter political campaign to secure another four-year term as president, but major partisan debate and division remain. As a Democratic White House and a (majority) Republican House of Representatives tangle perilously close to a “fiscal cliff,” vital priorities hang in the balance. In this, the newest entry in Brookings’ long line of defense budget analyses, Michael O’Hanlon considers the best balance between fiscal responsibility and national security in a period of continued economic stress.

O’Hanlon believes that savings in the range of what Obama proposed in 2012 are the right goal for defense cost reductions in the coming years. He explains why cuts of the magnitude required by sequestration, and those suggested by the Bowles-Simpson and the Rivlin-Domenici plans for greater fiscal health, are too deep on strategic grounds, particularly in light of America’s rebalancing toward Asia and ongoing turbulence in the Middle East.

Excerpt from the book:

"It is important not to latch onto some strategic fad to justify radical cuts in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps. For two decades, since Operation Desert Storm, some have favored “stand-off” warfare featuring long-range strikes from planes and ships as the American military’s main approach to future combat. But it is not possible to address many of the world’s key security challenges that way—including scenarios in places like Korea and South Asia, discussed further below, that could in fact imperil American security. In the 1990s, advocates of a so-called “military revolution” often argued for such an approach to war. But the subsequent decade proved that even with all the progress in sensors and munitions and other military capabilities, the United States still needed forces on the ground to deal with complex insurgencies and other threats."


Read an op-ed on U.S. Defense Spending from Michael E. O'Hanlon, in The Washington Post »