Tighter Military Budgets, Better Oversight on Aid Needed

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With Congress increasingly concerned about military spending in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Leon Panetta signaled last week that as the next secretary of defense he would carefully rein in spending. The former director of the Office of Management and Budget said that he and outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who has emphasized the need for greater efficiency and priority-setting —  “pretty much walk hand-in-hand on these issues.”

Also last week, a report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee suggested that much of the American aid to Afghanistan has fueled corruption and failed to thwart violence. According to the report, U.S. financing has helped create “a culture of aid dependency” that hinders Afghanistan’s prospects for future self-sufficiency. The report underscores the need to ensure more effective use of U.S. tax dollars.

In an encouraging sign that the Pentagon is serious about getting long-term costs under control, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn acknowledged last week that the Pentagon would not be exempt from deficit reduction efforts. Lynn said that while the military was able to address new threats after the 9/11 terrorist attacks by increasing funding, “it’s clear we’re not going to have that luxury for the foreseeable future.”

External links:
Leon Panetta’s Confirmation Hearing Before the Senate Armed Services Committee
Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan
William Lynn’s Speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies

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