This year, while we defense conservatives, like most people, will be celebrating Christmas and will try to find joy in it, we will nonetheless be sad, because America’s defense is now in the process of being gutted quite literally through massive cuts in budgets, nuclear and conventional weapon inventories, modernization programs, and the force structure.
It will be the fourth sad Christmas in a row for us in the last four years.
In 2009, the Congress, after initial resistance displayed by the HASC, the SASC, the SAC, and the full House, capitulated to the White House (including its veto threats) and agreed to implement the disastrous modernization program killings demanded by Defense Secretary Robert Gates (one of the worst SECDEFs in American history). The consequence was the killing of many crucial modernization programs, such as the F-22 fighter (the best fighter in the world and the only one capable of defeating the latest Chinese and Russian designs), the Multiple Kill Vehicle for missile interceptors (which would’ve enabled them to intercept multiple missiles and multiple warheads, or warheads and decoys, simoultaneously), the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (a ground-based boost-phase interceptor), the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class, the CSAR-X rescue helicopter, the AC-X gunship, and many others.
Yet, those programmatic closures, as dumb as they were (individually and collectively) were just a sign of the wholesale gutting of America’s defense that was to come.
In 2010, it was followed by more programmatic closures as well as the ratification of the New START treaty, which obliges only the US (not Russia) to cut its nuclear arsenal by 1/3. This treaty is undermining nuclear deterrence while containing multiple loopholes which Russia is mercilessly exploiting, not counting Tu-22M bombers as strategic bombers subject to its ceilings, and having a pathetically weak verification regime. In 2010, many conservatives, including myself, and many nuclear weapons and arms control experts, including former Assistant State Secretary for AC John R. Bolton, urged the Senate not to ratify this treaty. Sadly, in the 2010 lame duck session, just 2 days before Christmas, the Senate, including 13 liberal Republicans, voted to ratify this destructive, treasonous treaty.
While the negotiations on ratification conditions were ongoing between GOP Senators and the White House, Obama dishonestly promised to invest seriously in the modernization of the arsenal that would be left. At the time, I urged Senators not to believe Obama’s false promises, which, as I warned, were not worth a rat’s rear end. Sadly, 13 Republican Senators were duped by Obama’s useless promises – which he broke no sooner than the ink had dried in the ratification documents. (However, Republicans at least ensured that the New START ratification resolution passed by the Senate contains a firm legal obligation to modernize all three legs of the triad as well as the warheads and the related facilities, including construction of the CMRR and the UPF.)
So, after this betrayal by 13 Republican Senators, the Christmas of 2010 was a very sad one for us defense conservatives.
In 2011, Republicans, after agreeing to Sec. Gates’ $178 efficiencies initiative, foolishly agreed to $487 bn in further, immediate cuts to defense spending (which are real term cuts, not mere growth rate reductions as is often claimed) and to sequestration – a $600 bn per decade gun put at the head of the Defense Secretary – whose intent was to force the Super Committee (formed per the provisions of the Budget Control Act with the aim to find an additional $1.2 trillion in savings) to do its job of finding the required savings. Predictably, the deadlocked Super Committee, composed in equal number of partisan Democrats and Republicans, failed to do its job. So, on November 23rd, they announced their failure to come up with any deficit reduction plan, thus triggering the sequester. From then on, it was clear that sequestration would kick in, unless Congress could agree on a replacement.
2011 was a very sad Christmas for us defense conservatives.
When the year 2012 began, we hoped that things would get better: that sequestration would be resolved, that a pro-defense Republican President (Mitt Romney) and a Republican Senate would get elected, and that further damage to America’s defense would be stopped. These hopes were quickly dashed, however. The Congress has proved itself to be completely unable to resolve this (or any other important) issue before or after the November elections, and in those elections, thanks partially to Republicans’ issues with Romney and to third party candidates Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode, Republicans got trounced across the board, losing the presidential and Senate elections (Republicans actually lost two seats on net) and losing a number of seats in the House.
The results produced the same kind of a deadlocked government that has existed since 2009. The same kind of deadlocked government that nearly shut down in April 2011 and nearly caused America to default on its obligations for the first time ever in August 2011.
At the same time, Republicans have tolerated, and continue to tolerate, in their ranks pseudoconservative Congressmen and Senators who support deep defense cuts (indeed, lead campaigns for such cuts), oppose solutions to sequestration, oppose giving American troops what they need, and collaborate with the House’s most strident liberals for that purpose. And yet, Republicans and so-called “conservative” media and groups – such as ConservativeHQ and the American Spectator – hail these Republican traitors as “conservatives”, “conservative heroes”, and “Reagan heroes”.
And now, thanks to these indecisive elections and the deadlocked federal government, and the two parties’ failure to agree on any replacement for sequestration whatsoever, the sequester will kick in on January 2nd and slash defense spending across the board by 10%. Only personnel spending will be exempted. Ironically, that is the largest and fastest growing part of the defense budget, which is eating the rest of the budget alive and crowding out all other parts of it. Without reforms and significant cuts to personnel spending, the US military will, as CSBA’s Todd Harrison warns, some day become unable to carry out even the simplest tasks. Yet, it is the sole part of the budget exempt from sequestration – and the FY2013 NDAA just passed by Congress also prohibits any meaningful reforms to that part.
So this is a very sad Christmas for us defense conservatives – indeed, for all genuine conservatives. Four years of reckless defense cuts are culminating in what will be the deepest cuts to defense spending, inventories, and modernization programs since the 1950s – even deeper than the cuts that followed the end of the Vietnam and Cold Wars. The US military will be completely gutted as a result, with all the military, diplomatic, and economic consequences stemming from that.
A very sad Christmas, indeed.