Stimson in the News

New Stimson report outlines specific recommendations for smart defense cuts

in Program

Senior national security experts and former government officials convened by the Stimson Center
today issued a report outlining a new defense strategy that would
advance America’s national security but still make it possible to cut
about $50 billion from the Defense Department’s annual budget.


The report describes 27 specific recommendations to implement the new
strategy, called Strategic Agility, as an alternative to the
across-the-board budget cuts required by sequestration.

The report, titled “Strategic Agility: Strong National Defense for Today’s Global and Fiscal Realities,”
represents the consensus of Stimson’s 17-member Defense Advisory
Committee and includes detailed options for how the Department of
Defense can advance an updated defense strategy that maintains U.S.
national security while meeting required budget levels.

Committee members include two former vice chairmen of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, a former Air Force chief of staff, a former chief of
naval operations, and two retired four-star Army generals.

President Obama and both houses of Congress are proposing budgets for
fiscal year 2014 that exceed spending levels required by law. As a
result, Defense Advisory Committee members say, once Congress adjourns
sequester will again kick in this January, resulting in almost $50
billion in indiscriminate defense spending cuts.

The report issued today presents a better way of meeting the spending
caps by implementing the Strategic Agility defense strategy that
emphasizes the strengths of America’s armed forces.

“Adopting this new strategy and making the corresponding budget
adjustments we recommend makes a lot more sense than cutting blindly and
causing tremendous harm,” said Committee Chairman and Stimson
Co-founder Barry Blechman. “The political gridlock preventing rational,
strategy-driven defense decisions is a self-inflicted wound that is
dangerously weakening the ability of the U.S. armed forces to defend our

To watch a video of Blechman talking about the report, click here.

The budget savings recommended by the Defense Advisory Committee fall into three broad categories:

  • $22.4 billion in management reforms. These would cut excess
    military and civilian personnel in headquarters and defense agencies,
    reduce centralized training, reform military retirement and health
    benefits, and eliminate funding for unnecessary commissaries and
  • $21.4 billion in changes to force structure. These would
    maintain robust space, air, naval and special operations forces, and
    expand investment in cybercapabilities, but reduce active forces best
    suited for protracted wars and cut back nuclear forces. The
    restructuring would take advantage of the cost-effective strategic depth
    provided by the National Guard and Reserve.
  • $5.7 billion in reduced modernization costs. These would maintain the
    long-range strike bomber and increase the number of AEGIS destroyers
    for theater missile defenses. The adjustments would freeze missile
    defenses in the United States and purchases of new ground vehicles. The
    cuts would also slow purchases of F-35 fighter jets and ballistic
    missile submarines, cut back tactical nuclear weapons, and shift
    development resources toward advanced technologies.

The new report updates a study
the Defense Advisory Committee issued in November 2012 that first
proposed the Strategic Agility framework and laid out priorities implied
by the strategy.

“Strategic Agility was developed by looking at the interests of the
United States and the threats to those interests, and then considering
the U.S. military’s comparative strengths and weaknesses,” Blechman
said. “It’s based on an analysis of how best to protect U.S. national
security, which we found could be accomplished at a lower cost.”

The report was made possible by a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Here is a full list of all 27 Defense Advisory Committee recommendations, with their projected savings in the 2015 fiscal year:

Summary of Recommendations

Savings in FY15

(in billions)

Management Reforms


Reduce Headquarters



Reduce Defense Agencies



Streamline Central Training



Extricate Uniformed Personnel from Non-Military Tasks



Reduce Civilian Employees



Reduce Contractors



Reform Military Retirement



Reform Health Benefits



Stop Funding Commissaries and Post Exchanges in the US



Reduce Infrastructure


Subtotal, Management Reforms


Force Structure


Reduce Army Force Structure



Reduce Marine Corps End-Strength



Shift Lower-End Air Force Fighters to Reserve Component



Do Not Retire Navy Cruisers



Maintain Current Number of Aircraft Carriers



Increase Resources for Cyberwarfare



Maintain Ready Special Operations forces



Maintain Strategic Depth the Guard and Reserve Provide



Reduce Existing Nuclear Forces


Subtotal, Force Structure




Cancel GCV and JLTV



Slow F-35 Purchases



Continue the Long-Range Strike Bomber



Delay and Reduce Purchases of SSBN-X



Freeze GMD; Reprogram for Further Technology Development



Buy an Additional AEGIS Destroyer a Year



Shift Resources From Post-Prototype to Earlier Research



Cut Minor Procurement


Subtotal, Modernization


Total Savings


Savings needed in FY15 to Meet Sequester


Additional Savings Identified


Totals may not add due to rounding.

Members of the Defense Advisory Committee

Professor Gordon Adams – American University. Associate
Director for National Security and International Affairs, Office of
Management and Budget (1993-1997).

Professor Graham Allison – Harvard University. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy and Plans (1993-1994).

Mr. Michael Bayer – Chairman of the Defense Business Board (2007-2011).

General B.B. Bell, USA (Ret.) – Commander of U.S. Army, Europe (2002-2005) and U.S. Forces, Korea (2006-2008).

Professor Richard K. Betts – Columbia University.

Dr. Barry Blechman (Chairman) – Co-Founder and Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center.

Ambassador Lincoln Bloomfield, Jr. – Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs (2001-2005).

Ambassador Richard Burt – U.S. Ambassador to Germany (1985-1989) and Chief Negotiator of  the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (1989-1991).

General James Cartwright, USMC (Ret.) – Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (2007- 2011).

Lt. General Daniel Christman, USA (Ret.) – U.S. Representative to the NATO Military Committee (1993-1994) and West Point Superintendent (1996-2001).

Dr. Leslie Gelb – President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs (1977-1979).

Dr. Jessica Tuchman Mathews – President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr. Philip Odeen – CEO and Chairman, TRW Inc. (2002)

Admiral Bill Owens, USN (Ret.) – Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1994-1996).

Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.) – Chief of Naval Operations (2007-2011).

General Norton Schwartz, USAF (Ret.) – Air Force Chief of Staff (2008-2012).

Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter – President and CEO, New America Foundation. State Department Director of Policy Planning (2009-2011).


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