The uniformed services are trying to lock in the next administration by creating a political cost for holding the line on defense spending. Conservative groups are hoping to ramp up defense spending as a tool to limit options for a Democratic Congress and president to pass new, and potentially costly, social programs, including health care reform.
They also like the idea of creating an unrealistically high baseline of expectations for defense spending that will allow them to claim President Obama has cut defense spending.
I’ve written about this previously for The American Prospect so you can find detailed thoughts at that link. But suffice it to say that I think it’s absolutely crucial for the larger progressive agenda that we find a way to hold the line on this. Ever since the 1994 midterms, Democrats have shown no real interest in pushing back against DOD spending requests. And the short-term cost of that wasn’t high during a time when there was no real legislative prospect of big progressive change anyway. But the situation is different now, and we need to ensure that military spending is being weighed seriously against other options.