Via Mark Goldberg, it looks like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is making the sensible suggestion that our funding priorities shouldn’t tilt so dramatically in favor of the Defense Department, “Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities.”
He makes a whole bunch of good points, and it’s genuinely rare in Washington to see anyone suggest that any other agency’s mission is important and deserves more money. That said, this is still in the “talk as cheap” neighborhood. Rare as it is to see someone suggest that someone else’s budget ought to be higher, it’s by the same token very easy to suggest that someone’s else’s budget ought to be cut to increase spending elsewhere. What would be really revolutionary would be a Secretary of Defense who not only recognized the point Gates is making here, but who was willing to see the needed money come out of the Pentagon’s pocket. Until that time comes, we’ll need to rely on Lawrence Korb and his Unified Security Budget for the United States reports:
The shift recommended in this report—$56 billion in cuts to spending on offense and $50 billion in additional spending on defense and prevention—would convert a highly militarized 9-to–1 security ratio into a better balance of 5-to-1.
In the real world, no proposals of this sort are going to go anywhere unless Democrats are provided with substantial political “cover” by Republicans, so it probably does all hinge on whether or not people like Gates are willing to follow their insights where they lead instead of just vaguely suggesting that the State Department needs more capabilities. Still, this is a definite sign of progress.