Tag Archives: defense issues

Engaging Young Voters on Defense Issues

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A study released recently by the national leaders of Young Republicans (YRNC) polled young voters on numerous issues, including defense and foreign policy. The study reports that only 17% of youngsters believe that protecting the country should be the government’s top priority; that defense is “the place to start” budget cuts; that 35% of young voters, including 45% of young independents, believe defense spending should be cut [further]; and that in general, many if not most young voters want to reduce the size and budget of the military, withdraw it from foreign countries, and entrench America behind the oceans.

Why do so many youngsters hold such mistaken views? I believe this is due to confusion, as well as Republicans’ failure to clear up that confusion and explain why America needs to stop cutting its defense budget, retain the military at no less than its current size, and generally remain involved in the world.

This article aims to explain these issues and clear up the confusion. If you are a young voter, please give me 10 minutes of your time to explain.

Firstly, why shouldn’t the US cut its defense budget further?

Because, quite simply, significant cuts would seriously weaken the US military. There are many building bricks of military strength: brave troops, good training, competent leaders, world-class equipment, force size, a steady supply of ammunition and other provisions – but other than bravery, none of this is possible to have without sufficient funding. Without an adequate budget, the military will be very weak.

An army marches on its stomach, as Napoleon said – or more precisely, on its budget. To have an adequately-sized military, quality training and care for the troops, decent base and housing infrastructure, a sufficient supply of goods, and world-class weapons in sufficient quantities, you need adequate funding.

The military is not too big; if anything, it’s too small. The Navy, with the smallest ship fleet since 1915, is able to meet only 59% of Combatant Commanders’ needs for ships; the Air Force is strained beyond hope, flying its smallest and oldest aircraft fleet (average age: over 24 years, meaning the USAF’s aircraft, on average, were produced before you were born; they’re older than the pilots flying them). The Marines are on track to shrink to 182,100 men – but if sequestration sticks, they’ll have only 145,000 – not enough for even one major operation per the USMC’s Commandnant. The military is a shadow of its former self; in the Reagan years, it ahd over 2.6 million personnel and the Navy had 600 ships.

Some question why the US spends as much as it does compared to other countries.

But in all non-Western countries, one dollar can buy several times as much as it can in the US. And in countries like China, central governments pay only for capital military expenditures like weapons development and acquisition, while basing and personnel costs are borne mostly by regional governments. Thus, China’s military budget (up to $215 bn according to the DOD) is actually worth several times that amount. In Russia, the Defense Ministry gets much of its property as “free goods” from other ministries.

Moreover, total US military spending, including Afghan war costs, are only 4.1% of America’s GDP, the lowest share of GDP going to defense since 1948 (excluding the late Clinton years). That was a time of total military demobilization. Speaking of which, history shows that everytime the US has deeply cut its military’s size and budget, it later had to rebuild the military at a high cost when a new adversary perpetrated, or threatened, aggression – after both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

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Moreover, the US has a much larger economy (the world’s largest) and the 3rd largest population, so its natural that its military budget, in raw dollars, would be larger than those of other countries. Proportionally to its economy and population ($1,990 per capita, compared to almost $2,500 per capita during the Reagan years), the defense spending burden is quite low – especially by historical standards.

Many young voters are certainly frustrated with the waste in defense (and nondefense) spending. Believe me, so am I. That is why I’ve written, over the years, the largest DOD reform proposals package ever devised by anyone. But there isn’t enough waste in the DOD budget to pay for the budget cuts being contemplated by many young citizens – or those scheduled under current law. Because, you see, under the Budget Control Act of 2011, defense spending is on course to be cut by $1 trillion over the next decade (through FY2022, $550 bn of that under a mechanism called sequestration – which, making matters worse, doesn’t distinguish between legitimate defense priorities and waste, and instead requires cuts across the entire defense budget by 10%, in missile defense as much as in DOD bureaucrats. The DOD has zero legal flexibility to distribute those cuts.

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Before the sequester, the BCA had already mandated $487 bn in defense budget cuts; before that, Secretary Gates cut $178 bn in “efficiencies”; and before that, he had already killed over 50 weapon programs, including the F-22 fighter, the CG-X cruiser, and the Airborne Laser. Defense spending, in short, has already been subjected to deep, excessive cuts during President Obama’s tenure – while nondefense spending had not, prior to sequestration, faced any cuts (and even under sequestration, nondefense spending cuts will be shallow). And a full 60% of sequestration’s cuts are from defense.

Moreover, you could eliminate military spending entirely, and there still would be huge budget deficits for perpetuity. So defense spending is the wrong place to look for further cuts. It’s time for entitlements – which are exempt from sequestration – to face reductions now.

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Furthermore – and most importantly – defense is the most important function of the federal government, indeed its highest Constitutional duty, as made clear by the Constitution’s Preamble and Sec. 4 of Art. IV, and by the fact that half of all enumerated powers of Congress listed in Sec. 8 of Art. I of the Constitution pertain to military matters. Defense is therefore far more important than, say, farm aid or mass transit. And that is what the Founding Fathers believed.

George Washington told Congress in 1790 that “Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. (…) To be prepared for war is one of the effective means of preserving the peace.” John Adams said wisely that “National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.” James Madison asked in one of the Federalist Papers: “How could readiness for war in times of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?”

Some will say, “But the US should do less around the world. It should be less interventionist.”

But less is not better. More is not better, either. Only better is better.

The US, of course, shouldn’t make every conflict around the world, and every nation’s governance or security problems, its own. But in crucial parts of the world, the US needs to intervene when (and only when) its interests or its key allies are threatened. Who rules in Bosnia, Zambia, or Lesotho is irrelevant to US interests.

But when North Korea tests nuclear weapons and missiles and threatens US allies and Guam; when China bullies and threatens countries across East Asia; when Russia flies bombers close to US airspace practicing attacks on the US; when Israel’s security is threatened, the US cannot stand by; it must do something. The key is to determine what constitutes an American national interest and thus when and where to intervene, if at all; I’ve attempted to do so here. Also, if and when the US intervenes, it needs to achieve victory quickly and then go home. Prolonged wars don’t serve the national interest.

You may ask, “What about Iraq and Afghanistan, then?” I believe the invasion of Iraq and the nationbuilding campaign in Afghanistan were big mistakes. The US, like other countries, sometimes makes them. But it’s crucial not to shift to the other extreme of the position spectrum and oppose any overseas interventions completely. The right path lies in the middle; the US should sometimes intervene, but only in defense of its vital interests and allies. Historically, that has been the policy of Republican Presidents such as… Ronald Reagan and his Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. The latter officially enshrined this policy as the Weinberger Doctrine.

Dear Young Reader, if you’ve read all of this to the end, I want to thank you – even if you don’t agree with me completely, or even in 50%. The US military needs the engagement and support of every US citizen – especially young citizens, who are the future and the hope of any nation and its armed forces.

Rebuttal of Rand Paul’s blatant lies about defense spending

Last night, in his response to President Obama’s SOTU speech, Rand Paul, as usual, directed most of his arrows not at Obama and the Democrats, but at his own party and its conservative supporters, and while so doing, he recited his standard litany of blatant lies about defense issues.

He falsely claimed that defense spending is/has been a “sacred cow” that Republicans have protected for long; that it’s time for Republicans to “realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud”; he furthermore claimed that “Not only should the sequester stand”, but it should even be increased to 4 trillion dollars.

All of his claims are blatant lies or, in the case of waste and fraud, a straw man argument.

Firstly, defense is not, and has NEVER been, a sacred cow. Here, I will not even delve into the deep defense cuts that Republicans agreed to during the 1950s, 1970s, late 1980s, and 1990s; I’ll assume that Rand Paul meant only the time since 2001. Even then, he’s still dead wrong.

Since 2009 alone, Republicans have agreed to the following defense cuts:

  • The massive defense cuts of 2009, which took the form of killing over 30 crucial weapon programs, including the F-22 (the ONLY Western fighter capable of defeating the newest Russian and Chinese aircraft), the Multiple Kill Vehicle for missile defense interceptors, the Kinetic Energy Interceptor for boost phase defense, the AC-X gunship, the CSARX rescue helo, etc. This was followed up in 2010 by further killings of crucial programs, such as the C-17 airlifter and the alternative engine for the F-35 (thus giving Pratt and Whitney an engine monopoly).
  • The New START treaty, ratified in 2010, obligating only the US (not Russia) to cut its deployed nuclear arsenal by 1/3;
  • The 178 bn Gates Efficiencies of 2011; and
  • The 487 bn in further defense cuts mandated by the First Tier of the Budget Control Act, accepted by most Republicans in 2011.

All of this BEFORE sequestration.

To date, the DOD has already contributed 900 bn in deficit reduction since 2009. Any claim that the DOD has been a “sacred cow” are blatant lies.

Moreover, defense is not anyone’s “sacred cow”; it is the highest Constitutional DUTY of the federal government – indeed, the most important one according to George Washington. The majority of Congress’ enumerated powers are related to military matters, and the reason why the federal government was created in the first place was to provide for the common defense, as the preamble to the Constitution explains. It was created because the weak Congress of the Confederacy had no means to provide for the Union’s defense.

Rand Paul chastises his fellow Republicans for wanting to spare defense from sequestration, claiming that “it’s time for Republicans to realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud”. But no one in any party and no one in the United States is claiming that it is immune from waste and fraud. (Personally, I’m the author of the largest DOD reform proposals package ever compiled by anyone.)

But there isn’t enough waste and fraud in the defense budget to pay for a 550 bn per decade sequester. Not even close to enough. Thus, sequestration – or any cuts on a similar scale – would have to cut a lot of money out of genuine military capabilities – the meat and bone of the US military. In other words, gut the military.

All members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all other military leaders, all civilian leaders of the Defense Department, all non-leftist think tanks (Heritage, AEI, Center for a New American Security, Center for Security Policy, Bipartisan Policy Center) – basically everyone except the Left – have confirmed that sequestration will severely weaken the US military. The military services have already explained in detail how this would happen:

  • The Navy would have to cancel the deployment of one aircraft carrier to the Gulf, cancel maintenance on at least 23 ships (including two aircraft carriers) and 250 aircraft this year alone, and cut the ship fleet by 50 vessels, including at least two carriers, down to no more than 8 (and probably fewer) flattops.
  • The Air Force would have to delay all of its acquisition and development programs, stop demolishing unneeded buildings, cut flight training by 18%, cut the budget of its Global Strike command (responsible for ICBMs and bombers) by 20%and more broadly will have to curtail the service’s ability to conduct air-to-air refueling, support Army logistical requirements and, by September of this year, train new pilots—reductions that cumulatively will erode America’s vitally important airpower capabilities.
  • The Army would have to stop training 78% of its brigades, cancel critical maintenance, and stop training new aviators and military intelligence specialists—delays that, according to the service’s leaders, will result in the “rapid atrophy of unit combat skills with a failure to meet demands of the National Military strategy by the end of the year.”

Recently, 46 former national security officials and defense experts spanning the partisan spectrum, from former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) to former SECDEF Robert Gates (who presided over the first three rounds of defense cuts mentioned above) to Reagan nat-sec advisor Bud McFarlane have signed a letter underlining sequestration’s grave impact on the military and chastising the President and the Congress for not stopping it. Their letter concludes thus:

“Sequestration will result in unacceptable risk for U.S. national security. It will degrade our ability to defend our allies, deter aggression, and promote and protect American economic interests. It will erode the credibility of our treaty commitments abroad. It will be a self-inflicted wound to American strength and leadership in the world.

History will not look kindly on this abdication of responsibility, but will hold accountable the President and the Congress who together chose such a dangerous course.”

Even if you think there is still enough waste in defense to pay for sequestration (and if you think that, you’re wrong), that still doesn’t help Rand Paul: sequestration will actually AGGRAVATE the problem of waste in the defense budget by forcing the DOD into inefficiencies, such as:

  • Cutting weapon purchase rates, thus preventing the realization of economies of scale and leading to cost overruns (because weapons are much cheaper when you buy more of them and faster);
  • Delaying and underfunding the research, development, and testing phases of weapon programs, thus delaying their development and the moment that bugs are discovered and fixed in weapons;
  • Delaying much-needed maintenance on ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles of all sorts, thus significantly increasing the bill for maintaining and repairing them when such maintenance and refurbishment can no longer be delayed and has to be done;
  • Furloughing all DOD civilian employees whose job is to manage the DOD’s programs on a daily basis; and
  • Underfunding training, meaning that you’ll have to train people later at a higher cost to regain lost skills.
  • Moreover, sequestration will cut everything in the defense budget (except personnel costs) by a uniform percentage – the waste by the same percentage as the essentials. Thus, beef jerky studies will be cut by the same percentage as the Next Generation Bomber.

Also, sequestration does NOT authorize crucial, money-saving reforms for which the DOD has repatedly requested authorization: healthcare and retirement program reforms and base closure. Indeed, the Budget Control Act explicitly prohibits using the sequester to close unneeded bases. So the DOD will be gutted doubly: forced to cut its budget deeply and uniformly while not being allowed to carry out the reforms it does need and has requested authorization for.

In short, sequestration will only make the problem of waste in the defense budget WORSE, not better.

If Sen. Paul were TRULY concerned about waste and fraud in the defense budget, he would be doing everything he can to CANCEL sequestration and, at minimum, give the DOD full flexibility to administer these cuts. But he’s not doing that – because he’s a total fraud and doesn’t give a damn about “waste and fraud” in the defense budget. All he cares about is gutting the US military – a goal he shares with his loathsome, stridently liberal, and stridently anti-American father Ron Paul, who, like his son, is a total fraud (he recently sued his former supporters… at the United Nations).

And if Sen. Paul were a real defender of the Constitution and limited government, he would not have been introducing unconstitutional bills to mandate federal policies on employment and abortion – issues reserved to the states and the people.

But he doesn’t really care about limited government or waste and fraud in the defense budget – all he cares about is gutting America’s defense. That is probably why he has suggested that the sequester should not only be allowed to stand, but even increased to 4 trillion dollars, as if the current sequester of America’s defense was not bad enough.

There isn’t even nearly that much waste in the defense budget. Not even close. Any cuts on the scale of the current sequester – let alone the one that Paul proposes – would have to cut deeply into America’s defense capabilities – and that would only invite aggression that would have to be repelled at a much greater cost.

Shame on Rand Paul for stating such blatant lies, and shame on the Tea Party Express for giving him the platform to do so. No one should ever take them seriously again.

Rand Paul has proven once again that he’s the same anti-American, anti-defense, anti-conservative, pro-weak-defense, isolationist pseudoconservative fraud as his father. He must be denied the Republican presidential nomination – in 2016 and all successive presidential election cycles.