It is no secret that I think that Congress and the president should allow the sequestration cuts to go through. First, independently of the debt deal, after years of fast growth the Pentagon’s budget should be on the table for review and potential cuts like everything else (even if it is not the main driver of our future debt). Second, these spending reductions won’t be anywhere as deep as many claim they will. The CBO projections (see Table 1.3 here, or Table 1.5 in the new CBO projections) about the impact of sequestration show that in the worst-case scenario (if all the cuts are applied to the baseline in the law), there will be initial reductions between FY 2012 and FY 2013, but that defense spending will continue to grow in nominal terms for all years after. After sequestration, the FY 2013 defense budget will be comparable to its FY 2006 level (in real terms). Adjusted for inflation, over the next ten years, the spending is projected to remain relatively constant. …

Now, there are two downsides to sequestration. First, across-the-board cuts aren’t the best way to shrink government, since they don’t allow prioritization — cutting less important missions and programs to fully fund more critical ones. In our current fiscal situation, however, imperfect cuts still beat the alternative, doing nothing.

The bigger problem is that if Congress were to cut the Pentagon’s budget as much as it could and should be cut, it would be somewhat of a hollow victory if changes aren’t implemented in the way the Department spends its money. We don’t want an expensive military, but we still need an efficient one. The good news is that both goals could be achieved if the Pentagon weren’t being forced just to cut spending, but also had the flexibility and ability to reshape its capabilities to address the current threats. Many experts across the political spectrum (see here and here, among others) have made the case that the military could engage in such reshaping to provide not only better defense to the American people, but cheaper defense, too.