The Pentagon’s Budget: A Superpower Still Has To Set Priorities

The Bush administration’s proposed spending plans for the Pentagon have produced a series of dramatic headlines around the world relating to an apparently unprecedented US defence build up. The fiscal 2003 budget request for the Pentagon fleshed out the budgetary details of Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld’s Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR), released on 30 September, 2001.

The QDR was a cautious document on the whole. While it unveiled several new initiatives, they were largely conceptual ones. It increased the military’s emphasis on homeland security, as planned even before the attacks on the US on September 11th of that year. It also adopted a somewhat less demanding type of two-war scenario as the proper standard for sizing American armed forces. In addition, the QDR placed greater emphasis on missile defence, defence research and development, and joint-service training and experimentation.

However, the Bush defence review essentially reaffirmed the Clinton administration’s weapons modernisation agenda and force structure. After rampant early speculation that overseas troop deployments would be reduced, the size of US ground forces would be curtailed significantly and a generation of weapons programs would be skipped, Rumsfeld’s defence plan proved far more cautious and far more consistent with that of his predecessors.