The Realist Prism: Politics, Strategy and U.S. Defense Budgets

On Monday, during the final presidential debate, President Barack Obama proclaimed that his defense budgets were “driven by strategy. [They’re] not driven by politics.” In theory, Obama is correct. Defense budgeting is supposed to be a rational exercise that assesses threats and needs, and then fills in the gaps. As Sean Sullivan, a leading expert on defense resource allocation issues at the Naval War College, told me in a conversation on the subject, “Defense planning processes are specifically designed to use strategy as guidance for force programming and budget decisions, thereby linking the ends with the means.” In practice, however, […]

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