A new “supercommittee” of Republicans and Democrats met recently on Capitol Hill to discuss possible ways to solve the nation’s fiscal woes and, if possible, replace the sequester with other, more carefully designed, budget cuts.
In the opening of that meeting, the Democrats, specifically Sens. Ron Wyden and Bernie Sanders, stated some very blatant lies that need to be refuted, for we will undoubtely hear them many more times in the months ahead.
Ron Wyden falsely claimed that “we shouldn’t bail out the Defense Department while continuing to slash vital domestic programs.”
Excuse me? Bail out the DOD? Slashing “vital domestic programs”?
Nobody is talking about or proposing a bailout of the DOD. What most Republicans, and other people concerned about America’s security, are talking is sparing the DOD from the worst, deepest, and most mindless of the budget cuts it has had to endure for the last 5 years: sequestration, which has already been in effect for one fiscal year and has brought the defense budget down to just $469 bn, the lowest level since FY2013. In the one year in which it has been in effect so far, it has already done considerable damage to the US military. Continuing sequestration will completely gut the military – as previous rounds of post-war defense cuts did in the 1920s, 1940s, 1970s, and 1990s.
But sequestration is hardly the first round of budget cuts the DOD has had to endure in the last 5 years. In fact, the Obama administration targeted defense for deep cuts as soon as it had taken office. In 2009, they (and a compliant Congress) killed over 30 crucial weapon programs, including, and most disastrously, the F-22 Raptor. In 2010, they killed several more programs, and in 2011, they found another $178 bn in “efficiency savings.” By Obama’s own admission, they had already cut $400 bn from defense budgets by April 2011.
After that, Congress passed, in August 2011, the Budget Control Act, which mandates two new rounds of defense cuts. The first round took effect in FY2012 and requires $487 bn in defense budget cuts from then until FY2022, which then-Secretary Panetta duly found – at the cost of retiring hundreds of aircraft and 9 ships early, as well as killing further weapon programs.
Almost nobody is calling for the reversal of these previous rounds of defense cuts.
What most Republicans and other defense conservatives calling for is the cancellation of sequestration – the newest round of defense cuts which, if implemented fully through FY2022, will slash another $550 bn from the base defense budget – ON TOP OF all defense cuts previously implemented or programmed.
That would hardly be a bailout of the DOD; rather, it would mean sparing it from excessive, disproportionate, destructive budget cuts coming on top of several rounds of already deep budget reductions.
Yes, disproportionate – because a full 60% of all budget cuts under the BCA – both the BCA’s first tier and sequestration – comes exclusively from the defense budget, and only 40% from discretionary domestic programs. (Mandatory programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are completely shielded from any budget reductions.)
And the cuts to domestic programs (40% of the sequester) are spread over a myriad of such programs and agencies, while all defense cuts (60% of the sequester) fall exclusively on one agency: the DOD.
So Sen. Wyden and his staffers are blatantly lying when they claim that “we continue to cut vital domestic programs” – no “vital domestic programs” are receiving any meaningful cuts, and certainly do not “continue” to be cut, because the sequester is the first time that any of them are being cut! And even under sequestration, entitlement programs are completely exempt from any cuts!
And what “vital domestic programs” are you talking about, Senator? Under the Constitution, the vast majority of domestic issues – from education to healthcare to the environment – are OFF LIMITS to the federal government and are reserved to the states and the people. They are NONE of the federal government’s business.
Defense, OTOH, is the highest Constitutional DUTY of the federal government.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-admitted socialist from Vermont, for his part, falsely claims that the US can afford to cut its defense budget because “We’re not fighting the Soviet Union, we’re fighting Al Qaeda.”
But there are several much bigger threats to US national security besides al-Qaeda: a resurgent KGB-governed Russia with a huge nuclear arsenal and a large and increasingly modern conventional force; a rapidly ascendant and aggressive China arming itself to the teeth; a nuclear-armed North Korea capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the US; a theocratic-governed Iran that could shut the Straits of Hormuz down in an afternoon and will, in a month, have enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear warhead.
Considering these, and many other, threats to US national security, America cannot afford to cut its defense budget – already dramatically reduced – any further. And what the US currently spends is a pittance: 4% of GDP and just 17% of the total federal budget, as opposed to 9% of GDP and almost 50% of the federal budget at the Vietnam War’s peak.
Larry Korb, a propagandist working for the George-Soros-funded “Center for American Progress” (an organization that wants to institute socialism in the US), falsely claims that the sequester will not be damaging at all, can be paid for solely by cutting waste, and that it will cut defense spending only to FY2007 levels. He and other anti-defense hacks accuse the military’s service chiefs – distinguished men who collectively have more military experience than this nation has years of existence – of scaremongering the public and resisting needed reforms.
Those are blatant lies as well. The sequester has cut defense spending down to the lowest level since FY2003 – $469 bn, lower than $473 bn in FY2003 (in constant dollars). And it cannot be paid for solely by cutting “waste”, for waste, contrary to public misconceptions, accounts for only a small part of the defense budget. There isn’t much genuine waste there. Sen. Tom Coburn, for example, for all his decrying of “waste” in the DOD budget, could find only $7 bn per year of “waste” in it.
Any deep defense spending cuts, such as sequestration, will unavoidably mean killing dozens of crucial weapon programs and deeply cutting the force structure – as successive Defense Secretaries, Service Secretaries, and Service Chiefs have warned. Multiple think-tanks from the center and the right – including the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the AEI, and the Heritage Foundation – have done their own studies and/or budget exercises and have reached largely the same conclusion: sequestration will force the DOD, even at maximum efficiency, to deeply cut funding for either the force structure and readiness or modernization – or both.
That will mean a severely weakened military. There is no way around that fact.
And as for anti-defense hacks’ accusation that the Service Chiefs are blocking and resisting badly needed reforms that could save the DOD much money – balderdash! The Service Chiefs (and their predecessors), as well as the current Defense Secretary (and his predecessors going back to at least Donald Rumsfeld) have been AT THE FOREFRONT of fighting FOR badly needed DOD reforms, especially in the areas of personnel pay&benefits, military healthcare programs, closing unneeded bases, slashing bureaucracies, retiring unneeded aircraft, and reforming acquisition processes and programs. Yet, at every turn, Congress has BLOCKED these reforms (except those related to acquisition*), AGAINST the pleas from all of the Joint Chiefs and all Service Secretaries plus a succession of Defense Secretaries.
It is the sole fault of the CONGRESS that these vital reforms have not been enacted yet. But even if they had, that still wouldn’t have come up with nearly enough savings to pay for sequestration – as the CSBA budget exercise earlier this year showed (it was built on the assumption that these reforms would be passed).
There’s simply not enough waste and inefficiency in the defense budget to make enough savings through “efficiencies” to pay for sequestration. The sequester will inevitably result in deep cuts in the military’s force structure, readiness, and/or modernization programs.
And remember: as I said at the beginning, the sequester, itself a $55 bn annual cut, is coming ON TOP OF all the defense cuts previously scheduled and implemented by Obama since 2009: the killing of over 50 weapon programs in 2009 and 2010, the Gates Efficiencies Initiative of 2011 ($178 bn in further cuts), and the pre-sequester BCA-mandated budget cuts ($487 bn over a decade). The sequester is yet another, and even deeper, round of defense cuts under the Obama administration.
The military has been cut so badly, and been required to cut its budget so deeply, that there is little genuine “waste” remaining, so any further cuts will have to bite force structure, readiness, and modernization. There is no way around that fact.
Shame on Sens. Wyden and Sanders, on Larry Korb, and on everyone else who lies about US defense spending and seeks to cut it further.