Defense secretary Robert Gates today unveils his last budget request before departing public service. It’s a good time to be going, because as the fiscal 2012 request reflects, increases in the buying power of the military budget are over. The budget proposed by Gates would spend $553 billion not counting overseas contingencies, which is $13 billion less than the department said it would request for 2012 a year ago. When you factor in the effects of inflation, the buying power of the budget is flat as a pancake, and likely to stay that way given the continuous erosion of U.S. economic strength over the last decade. The industrial sinews of the “arsenal of democracy” have atrophied to a point where even the intelligence community is now worried. Waning industrial strength not only calls into question the ability of the U.S. to maintain its edge in high-tech weaponry, but even to finance a global military presence over the long run. I have written an assessment of America’s industrial decline that appears today at Forbes.com. You can read the assessment here.
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