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Abstract

This case studies the efforts of Les Aspin, freshman congressman from Wisconsin, to cut defense spending. It opens with a brief outline of the problems inherent in any challenge to the defense budget, and then explores Aspin's options in advocating defense cuts. The sequel to the case describes Aspin's decision to seek a ceiling on total defense spending and the steps he took to get his amendment through the House. It concludes with the failure of his amendment in conference.The case illustrates the need for policy entrepreneurs to build coalitions among diverse groups, particularly when attacking an institution as entrenched as the Department of Defense. Aspin's strategy is an example of the effective use of abstract arguments, a reputation for expertise, and political trading in forming such coalitions. The case also points to the importance of congressional procedure in successful political strategy.

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Abstract

This case studies the efforts of Les Aspin, freshman congressman from Wisconsin, to cut defense spending. It opens with a brief outline of the problems inherent in any challenge to the defense budget, and then explores Aspin's options in advocating defense cuts. The sequel to the case describes Aspin's decision to seek a ceiling on total defense spending and the steps he took to get his amendment through the House. It concludes with the failure of his amendment in conference.The case illustrates the need for policy entrepreneurs to build coalitions among diverse groups, particularly when attacking an institution as entrenched as the Department of Defense. Aspin's strategy is an example of the effective use of abstract arguments, a reputation for expertise, and political trading in forming such coalitions. The case also points to the importance of congressional procedure in successful political strategy.

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