Earlier today, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held a lunch with a group of bloggers to discuss his new memoir, Known and Unknown.
During the discussion, Rumsfeld talked about how the amount of GDP we dedicate toward defense had shrunk over time. Given that this will become more of an issue in the coming decades with the explosion in entitlement spending, I asked him whether he thought defense spending could be cut without hindering national security, which even some conservatives have begun to suggest.
Rumsfed acknowledged that there were specific areas that could be cut, but warned against broad cuts.
“In any large organizations, there are things that can be reduced, that’s clear,” he said. “I think it was something like $18 billion in earmarks were shoved down the Pentagon’s throat every year. Congress wanted it, we didn’t want it. It didn’t have anything to do with defense capabilities. So are their things? Sure. When I worked at the Pentagon, there were pastry chefs. There were people standing outside the door, and wherever I went, they went with me. If everyone else could work there, why did I need somebody else helping me around?”
He exlained, “I’m looking at specifics. You start looking at the aggregate, and that’s something different…The defense budget is not what’s causing the deficit in the United States government. If you look at the percentage.”
He added, “Clearly there are things that can be done at the defense department. But if anyone thinks they can balance the budget on the back of the defense department, the answer is a) mathematically, it can’t be done, and b) you’ll be sorry.”
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