With U.S. defense spending cuts potentially on the agenda, U.S. policymakers would do well to use the United Kingdom's experience as a cautionary example.
The buildup to the recent defense cuts in the United Kingdom served as a call to battle for the U.K.'s military services. Anticipating steep reductions in funding, each of the three branches opened fire on their sister-organizations in the hope of redirecting budgetary knives. This development was neither surprising nor unintended. Civilian policymakers have long understood that they can benefit from inter-service conflict. When services attack one another, it provides fodder for cost-conscious budget-cutters to kill particular programs.
But inter-service conflict can take two forms: resource conflicts and mission conflicts. While both help civilian policymakers cut costs, they do not have the same effect on the military's overall strategic preparedness.