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But weighed against the dangers of the fiscal overstretch and economic decline now facing the country, the case for pursuing about a 10 percent reduction in the core defense budget is strong enough to warrant serious consideration in the years ahead. In debating the idea, we should avoid the implication that there are easy answers or easy economies to achieve, and link possible budget reductions to strategic choices in the nation’s foreign policy. Thankfully, the country’s basic security position is strong enough that responsible options do exist.

Michael O’Hanlon, author of “Budgeting for Smart Power” (Brookings, 2009), is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and was previously an analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.