Inevitably, as fighting in Afghanistan winds down, there are going to be calls for more defense spending reductions. Contracting out services should go down. A military compensation and retirement modernization commission has to be established, a new effort to raise Tricare fees needs to be made, the $200 million-plus earmark for congressionally mandated research on cancer and other non-military generated illnesses should be ended, and, I hope, some reductions in the $388 million spent on military bands.
Larger amounts could be saved by buying fewer than the now-planned 2,440 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and reducing the future strategic nuclear force by cutting the number of new $4.9 billion strategic submarines, new heavy bombers and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
No one is more qualified than Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to shepherd the fiscal 2014 defense budget through its introduction to the new Congress. Therefore, I hope Panetta stays on through at least April to handle what is bound to be a difficult transition for his successor.
Former senator Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who became co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board after being considered for top positions in the first Obama administration, met with the president to discuss him replacing Panetta in the second. No rush needed, but if Hagel is Obama's choice, the president should get on with it and not be deterred by a handful of objectors.
Another nomination that should not be delayed is for CIA director. In this case, Acting Director Michael Morell, a veteran agency intelligence officer, should be named. After going through four non-agency directors in the eight years since 2004 when George Tenet resigned, the agency needs one of its own to provide some leadership stability.
Looking at today's world, it's difficult to welcome 2013 with a "happy new year." How about toasting "a better new year" as we look to the future?