Strategy, mission are key facets to defense budget cuts, Carlisle tells panel

Hawk Carlisle at a previous Reagan Forum in Simi Valley.

ARLINGTON, VA -- With talk of cuts emerging for the U.S. defense budget, Hawk Carlisle said such cuts are best done strategically and with clear direction from the Defense Department on its wants and needs and how it plans to use its resources.

Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association, offered his comments during "The Future of Defense Spending: Strategic Choices and Hard Tradeoffs," a panel discussion presented by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute on April 13.

“The worst situation we could be in is where we cut the defense budget and we don’t do it strategically. … I have the battle scars from my days in uniform, trying to retire airplanes,” said Carlisle, a retired Air Force four-star general who, during his nearly 40 years of service, led U.S. commands worldwide. “One person’s legacy (system) is another person’s requirement.”

However, the Defense Department must really articulate the programs and systems it wants and why. “We have a goal that we’re moving toward,” he said.

Carlisle noted the remarks of fellow panelist, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in that there also is a political angle that looms large in this issue.

“The ability to get to those tough decisions that, in the near term, can affect districts and states, that is going to be a huge challenge,” Carlisle said.

One bright spot in this situation, Carlisle said, is that with authorizations and appropriations, there is a bipartisan consensus in both the House and Senate on judicious moves on the defense budget. “Our hope is that the way the legislation goes and with the authorizers, you can get to that strategic plan,” he said.

The entire panel discussion plus the event’s opening remarks and a Q&A with Smith, can be seen here on YouTube.

Panel members were Carlisle and Smith and Mackenzie Eaglen, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The moderator was Thomas Mahnken, president and CEO of the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments.

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