Some light summer reading on defense spending and the debate over cuts:

The Pentagon might not want to contemplate what would happen if a congressional panel fails to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction measures. (Officials have said they are not preparing contingency plans should that happen.) Luckily, someone over at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities is thinking about it, or at least thinking about the mechanics of how it would work. Richard Kogan explains that the across-the-board cuts would take effect in 2013 and would represent approximately a 9 percent cut in defense programs. It’s a good step-by-step explainer.

Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution punches back with a counterpoint to Fareed Zakaria, who wants to bring down the guillotine on the defense budget. O’Hanlon argues that while there’s plenty of waste in the Pentagon budget, a whole lot of the money has gone to troops and veterans who have borne the burden of two wars. His case for strategic cuts here.

Joseph S. Nye Jr., a former assistant secretary of defense and the foremost advocate of “smart power,” is with O’Hanlon on the need to trim, but to do it in the right way. He takes it beyond recommendations for cuts — though he has some of those, too — and argues for a recalibration of America’s philosophy on military power.