Tag Archives: defense spending

Engaging Young Voters on Defense Issues

danxoneil (CC)

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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.

Myth: “Republicans also support Big Government – in defense spending”

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There is currently a myth being spread across America that Republicans also support Big Government, in the form of generous defense spending, and that this is Republicans’ sacred cow. Anti-defense liberals and libertarians falsely claim that Republicans cannot credibly call for federal spending cuts and for limited government unless they’re willing to significantly slash defense spending.

But they are dead wrong. Read on, Dear Reader, and I’ll show you why.

Limited-government conservatism is an ideology that aims to reduce and limit the size of the federal government to the bounds authorized by the Constitution. Conservatives and libertarians alike agree that the federal establishment has expanded way beyond these authorized constitutional boundaries.

But generous defense spending is completely in line with the Constitution and the Founding Fathers’ intent. It is not a Big Government program, nor anyone’s sacred cow. It is, in fact, the #1 Constitutional DUTY of the federal government. The #1 reason for having a federal government at all is to have it defend the country and its citizens.

What does the Constitution say about defense? The Preamble to the Supreme Law of the Land explains why the federal government was established in the first place:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Art. I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution lists 18 prerogatives of the Congress, nine (i.e., 50%) of which are related to military affairs, including “to raise Armies,” “to provide and maintain a Navy,” to regulate captures on land and water, to declare war, and to make regulations for the military. They authorize the full spectrum of the defense needed, from “providing for the common defense”, raising and supporting Armies, and providing and maintaining a Navy, to building arsenals, dockyards, and forts. As Ernest Istook of the Heritage Foundation has observed, “National defense receives unique and elevated emphasis under the Constitution. It is not ‘just’ another duty of the federal government.”

The Constitution not only authorizes a strong national defense (and consequently, robust funding for it), it REQUIRES it. Art. IV, Sec. 4 of the Constitution says as follows:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion…

As you can see, the Constitution not merely authorizes, it REQUIRES a strong defense and therefore any measures necessary to build it – including any amount of funding required to build it. Any amount of defense spending is Constitutionally authorized and perfectly in line with the Constitution and therefore with the Limited Government Principle.

A key tenet – indeed, the overriding principle – of conservative philosophy is that we must obey the Constitution as it is written. We may not cherry-pick which parts of the Constitution we’re going to obey and which ones we won’t abide by. But that’s what liberals and libertarians like Raul Castro Labrador are doing. They cherry-pick the Constitution and abide only by those party they like, while ignoring the ones they don’t like and pretending they don’t exist.

Most of the Founding Fathers also supported a strong national defense as a top imperative. George Washington, told the Congress in 1790 in his first State of the Union address:

“Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. (…) To be prepared for war is one of the effective means of preserving the peace.”

James Madison, for a long time an opponent of standing armies, ultimately changed his opinion and said in 1788:

“How could a 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?”

So according to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, defense is not a big government program, but rather a Constitutionally legitimate government function and indeed the highest Constitutional DUTY of the federal government. And if that is the case, a strong military (and generous funding for it) does NOT violate the Constitution and therefore also does not violate the Limited Government Principle.

In other words, Ronald Reagan did not invent the “peace through strength” philosophy – George Washington did, although he did not call it that way.

Consequently, the Limited Government Principle does NOT require any defense cuts, nor does any other tenet of conservative philosophy. Therefore, consistent application of conservatism, including the Limited Government Principle, does NOT require any defense cuts.

In fact, conservative ideology REQUIRES that a strong defense be built and generously funded, as stated by numerous conservative leaders from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan.

No, the Pentagon is not a Big Government program, nor is it anyone’s pet project. Defense is the #1 Constitutional obligation of the federal government and, as John Adams rightly said, “one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.”

So generous defense spending is fully consistent with the Constitution, the wishes of the Founding Fathers, and the Limited Government principle of conservatism.

So how much does the US spend today? Can deep defense cuts balance the federal budget?

The answer is overwhelmingly no. Washington’s trillion dollar annual deficits are so huge that, as the Heritage Foundation graph below shows, even eliminating military spending entirely would not even halve the budget deficit.

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The FY2013 military budget, under the FY2013 authorization bill was – prior to sequestration – $613 bn (for all military spending: the base defense budget, the Afghan war, and the DOE’s national security programs). That is 17% of the total federal budget and 4.01% of America’s GDP.

But under sequestration, the base defense budget faces a cut to $469 bn (3.07% of GDP) and by FY2014 will still be at a pathetically low $475 bn (3.11% of GDP).

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The House has recently passed a defense authorization bill authorizing $552 bn for FY2014 – for the base defense budget, the Afghan war, and DOE nat-sec programs combined. But even that sum is only 3.62% of GDP and just 15.33% of the entire federal budget.

So defense, the program that is supposed (under the Constitution) to be the federal government’s highest priority, is being shortchanged and will, even under the most optimistic scenario, receive only 15.33% of the entire federal budget! 84.67% of the federal budget will be spent on something else!

There is a big difference between being frugal and cheap.

Since the 1950s, defense spending has declined dramatically as a percentage of GDP and of the federal budget, from 50% of the total budget in FY1962 to just 15.33% today, and from 10% of GDP in FY1961 to 4.01% of GDP today – on track to slip to below 3% of GDP under sequestration.

 

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Meanwhile, domestic spending – discretionary and mandatory – has splurged.

 

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Do you see what is wrong here, Dear Reader? Washington has its priorities exactly backwards.

For a further comprehensive examination of the “the Pentagon is just another big government project” and “you can’t be a limited government conservative if you don’t support defense cuts” claims, please also read my article, “Defense and the Principle of Limited Government”.

Most Americans OPPOSE defense spending cuts

The U.S. Army (CC)

Another leftist myth has been debunked and shown to be a farce: the myth that a majority of Americans support deep defense spending cuts.

You may remember, folks, that last year, the University of Maryland and the extremely leftist “Center for Public Integrity” commissioned a rigged poll which claimed that 66% of Americans supported cutting defense spending to the tune of $100 bn per year. Anti-defense groups such as the misnamed, Soros-funded “Project on Government Oversight”, and anti-defense writers such as Micah Zenko falsely claimed on that basis that most Americans support deep defense spending cuts, including sequestration.

There were, however, other polls saying something completely different, including one by the National Journal and one commissioned by the Foreign Policy Initiative.

Then, earlier this year, Pew conducted a poll showing that 73% of Americans oppose any cuts to defense spending (and similar percentages oppose cutting anything else).

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And most recently, Gallup has released a poll showing that 36% of Americans believe the US spends the right amount of money on defense and another 26% think the US, if anything, isn’t spending enough – so in total, 62% of Americans oppose cutting defense. According to Gallup, only 35% of Americans think the US spends too much.

Moreover, the “don’t cut defense spending” view is held even more widely among the Independent and Republican electorates. 73% of Indies and 78% of Republicans share this pro-defense view, believing the US spends the right amount or an insufficient one.

Only among the Democrats does a majority think the US spends too much – and even among them, it’s barely a majority (51%). See here for details.

Gallup’s poll’s results mean that there is NO popular demand for defense cuts today, unlike the Vietnam War years and the late 1980s. All of that despite over 40 years of uncessant anti-defense leftist propaganda (particularly intense in the last 5 years). Gallup tells us that:

  • “In the late 1960s and early 1970s as the United States was fighting the Vietnam War, Americans’ dominant view was that the U.S. was spending too much on defense.
  • In 1981, just after Ronald Reagan took office after making concerns about U.S. military strength in light of the Iranian hostage situation and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan a major theme of his presidential campaign, Americans shifted to the view that too little was spent on defense.
  • As the Reagan administration built up military spending in the 1980s, Americans again came to believe the U.S. was spending too much in this area.
  • Near the end of the Clinton administration, as the government made an effort to reduce military spending and George W. Bush’s presidential campaign questioned U.S. military strength, an increasing number of Americans said the United States was spending too little on defense.
  • In the first several years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which included U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans most commonly said defense spending was “about right.”
  • Over the last five years, Americans have alternated in their views between believing the U.S. spends too much and believing it spends the right amount on defense, including this year, when roughly equal percentages of Americans hold each view.”

But what Gallup doesn’t tell us is that, in addition to the 36% of Americans who think the level of defense spending is “about right”, another 26% think the US isn’t spending enough, meaning that 62% of Americans – almost two-thirds of the society – oppose defense cuts.

This debunks yet another myth being spread by the left. Not only is defense spending NOT bloated, not only would deep cuts to it severely weaken the military (as sequestration is already beginning to do), not only would such cuts utterly fail to meaningfully reduce the budget deficit or attract new voters to the GOP, but also they are very unpopular: the vast majority of Americans OPPOSE them. There is NO popular demand for such policy, unlike the Vietnam War years – the time of the “guns vs butter” debates – and the late 1980s.

Not only that, but in contrast to the Vietnam War years and the 1970s, the US military is now held by the majority of the public, including 54% of young Americans, in very high regard.

Why deep defense cuts MUST be avoided at all costs

I could just as well title this article “why defense must always be fully funded” or “why America must always maintain a strong, second-to-none defense”, but all three titles effectively mean the same thing, so I have chosen the above one.

We are being told from all directions by various kinds of people – from liberals like Clinton Admin official Gordon Adams to libertarians like Justin Amash and Mick Mulvaney to supposed conservatives like Rush Limbaugh that America can afford deep cuts in the defense budget and still have a strong military; or, in the case of other libertarians, like the Students For Liberty/Ron Paul crowd, that America doesn’t need a strong military, that it would only be a tool of oppression, and that America can safely retrench and hide behind oceans and nothing will threaten it.

But all of those claims are garbage, and in this article, I’ll show you why. They might’ve made some sense during the 18th century, when any attack on America would’ve had to be a seaborne invasion or one from Mexico or Canada.

But in the 21st century, when America has vital interests around the world, when its economy is deeply interconnected to those of its allies and friends (such as Japan and South Korea), and in the era of nuclear weapons, ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental bombers, EMP weapons, and cyber attacks, such beliefs are utterly ridiculous. Those who indulge them live in a kum-ba-yah world.

Let us start with this timeless principle taught by Sun Tzu in his Art of War (ch. 8, v. 11):

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”

We should not delude ourselves that we will never be attacked, or not for a long time, or that America is somehow invincible or unassailable, or that its military is overwhelmingly superior when this is clearly not the case.

Providing for the common defense is not only necessary, it is the Federal Government’s #1 Constitutional DUTY. Art. IV, Sec. 4 of the Constitution clearly imposes this obligation on the government; the majority of enumerated powers granted to the Congress deal with military matters; and the Preamble to the Constitution – makes it clear that one of the reasons why the federal government was create in the first place is to “provide for the common defense”. Furthermore, the military is the ONLY significant expenditure authorized by the Constitution. Federal entitlement and welfare programs are utterly unconstitutional and thus illegal.

Furthermore, the claim – often made by proponents of deep defense cuts in order to lull Americans into a false sense of security – that the US military is still overwhelmingly superior to those of other countries – is completely false (although I wish it was true). The militaries of China and Russia, as documented in detailed analysis here, have already closed the vast majority of the gaps between their and the US military’s capabilities, and are now working hard on closing the remaining few gaps. Where those gaps still exist, as in aircraft carriers, for example, China and Russia have created asymmetric advantages of their own with anti-access/area-denial weapons such as aircraft carrier killing missiles.

For a detailed analysis of China’s and Russia’s military capabilities, see here.

Another oft-made false claim which is supposed to justify deep defense cuts is that they could supposedly be done safely if the military were just granted the flexibility to decide where to make the cuts and that if such reductions are made “strategically”, in a “targeted” manner, they can supposedly be done safely.

The “studies” produced by CATO, the “Project on Defense Alternatives”, the Center for American Progress, POGO-TCS,  the NTU, and Sen. Tom Coburn (RINO-OK) are often invoked as examples and as supposed “proof” that deep defense cuts can be done safely.

But I have read and analyzed virtually all of these “studies”, and ALL of them would, if implemented (God forbid), result in the utter gutting of the US military. Why? Because the vast majority of the cuts they call for would be directed at the muscle and bone of the US military – the force structure (i.e. the size of the military), its personnel, weapons, munitions, and forward deployments.

These “studies” call for deep personnel, weapon inventory, weapon program, and force size cuts across the board to all four Services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force) and to the already barely-adequate nuclear deterrent. They call for killing dozens of crucial modernization programs, including the Long Range Strike Bomber, the ICBM replacement program, the V-22 Osprey, the F-35, the Virginia class, and many others.

If one were to plan on how to completely gut the US military, one could not come up with a better plan than those produced by the above-mentioned leftist think-tanks (most of which, including CATO, POGO, and the CAP, are co-funded by George Soros) and by Sen. Coburn. These plans seem to be deliberately designed to gut the US military.

And NONE of these proposals or “studies” are really “strategic”, because none of them are underpinned by any strategy, only by a desire to gut the US military. Strategy is about setting priorities, funding them fully, and cutting back only on non-priority programs/objectives/activities; failure to set priorities and to fund them adequately is essentially the same thing as sequestration.

But in those “studies”, there are no priorities – like sequestration, they all call for deep, across-the-board cuts to everything the US military has and does – mostly to the muscle and bone of the military.

The first and only “priority” of these studies’ authors is to gut the US military, plain and simple.

I have refuted these ridiculous “studies” here, here, here, and here among other articles.

For his part, HumanEvents columnist Robert Maginnis wrongly claims that the US can make these cuts safely if it simply scraps a number of current missions.

But that is wrong. To make cuts on the scale of sequestration, the US military would have to jettison dozens of missions – including many crucial, necessary missions connected to America’s own national security (not just that of its allies). For example, air, naval, and ground superiority, nuclear deterrence, and missile defense.

Those who call for jettisoning many military missions and cuts on the scale of sequestration need to be made to say what exact missions they think the military should scrap and be forced to admit that doing so would mean not meeting America’s security needs and thus imperiling national security.

As then-SECDEF Robert Gates said in 2011:

“These are the kinds of scenarios we need to consider, the kinds of discussions we need to have.  If we are going to reduce the resources and the size of the U.S. military, people need to make conscious choices about what the implications are for the security of the country, as well as for the variety of military operations we have around the world if lower priority missions are scaled back or eliminated.  (…)  To shirk this discussion of risks and consequences – and the hard decisions that must follow – I would regard as managerial cowardice.

In closing, while I have spent a good  deal of time on programmatic particulars, the tough choices ahead are really about the kind of role the American people – accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past two decades – want their country to play in the world.”

Then there are those like Rush Limbaugh and Rand Paul who falsely claim that sequestration would be a mere cut to the growth rate of defense spending. But that is a blatant lie.

As the CBO has proven, and as I have documented here, sequestration would cut the base defense budget from $525 bn today to $469 bn in March and keep it well below today’s level (and even below $500 bn) for the next decade at least. By FY2022, the last year of the “sequestration decade”, the base defense budget would be at $493 bn – still below $500 bn and well below today’s level of $525 bn.

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Meanwhile, OCO (war) spending is shrinking annually from its FY2011 peak and is set to disappear in FY2016, once all US troops leave Afghanistan.

The DOE’s defense-related (nuclear) programs and the DOD’s unspent balances from previous years are also subject to sequestration, as are all other national-security-related agencies.

In other words, sequestration would be an IMMEDIATE, REAL, DEEP, and PERMANENT cut in defense spending. It would not be a mere cut in the rate of growth. In other words, Rush, Rand, and other sequestration pooh-poohers are blatantly lying. (And the people spreading that lie are children of the Father of Lies himself.)

President Ronald Reagan articulated the need for a strong military – and the case against defense cuts – well here and here.

Let Robert Gates – a man of whom I’ve been very critical – nonetheless have the last word here:

“Since I entered government 45 years ago, I’ve shifted my views and changed my mind on a good many things as circumstances, new information, or logic dictated.  But I have yet to see evidence that would dissuade me from this fundamental belief: that America does have a special position and set of responsibilities on this planet.  I share Winston Churchill’s belief that “the price of greatness is responsibility…[and] the people of the United States cannot escape world responsibility.”  This status provides enormous benefits – for allies, partners, and others abroad to be sure, but in the final analysis the greatest beneficiaries are the American people, in terms of our security, our prosperity, and our freedom.

I know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war.  But there is no doubt in my mind that the continued strength and global reach of the American military will remain the greatest deterrent against aggression, and the most effective means of preserving peace in the 21st century, as it was in the 20th.”

Rebuttal of de Rugy’s and Winslow Wheeler’s blatant lies about defense spending

In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

Anti-defense organizations such as POGO and the CDI (both of whom employ professional blowhard and liar Winslow Wheeler) routinely and falsely claim that the US spends almost $1 trillion per year on “defense” or the military. Late last year, libertarian propagandist Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at GMU joined them in propagating this blatant lie, uncritically repeating Winslow Wheeler’s false $930 bn figure and presenting it in a table.

But they are lying. How?

Firstly, they falsely claim that Budget Category #050 (“National Defense” in OMB/CBO classification) contained $676 bn in FY2012. But actual data from the OMB says it was $670 bn, and even that is overestimated, because the entire US military budget for FY2012 (the base budget plus OCO spending plus spending on the Energy Department’s nat-sec programs) was $633 bn, not $670 bn or $676 bn, in FY2012. (In FY2013, the maximum authorized amount, per the FY2013 NDAA, is $613 bn.)

Secondly, de Rugy and Wheeler falsely claim various larger and smaller budgetary items as being “defense spending” or “military spending”, even though the vast majority of them have no military nature and have nothing whatsoever to do with defense (though many of them are loosely related to the much broader mission of “national security”, the most important and basic function of the federal government).

In other words, de Rugy and Wheeler dishonestly count many budgetary items as “defense spending” in order to deliberately exaggerate its scale and thus to mislead the public.

These items are: the Department of Veterans’ Affairs budget ($124 bn), the “international affairs budget” ($61 bn), the DHS’s budget ($46 bn), and the DOD’s healthcare programs ($21 bn). They falsely and dishonestly claim that 100% of all of these items counts as “defense spending” and add it to the military budget to arrive at a figure of $928 bn for FY2012.

Needless to say, their claims are utterly false.

Let’s review each of these items and see whether they really count as “defense spending” or “military spending”, which properly defined means  spending on the US military itself as an institution – specifically, to pay, feed, clothe, train, heal, and house the members of the US military and to provide them with the resources (including, but not solely, weapons) with which to defend the nation and carry out all their missions, and the bases where they live, work, and train.

Let’s see if the budget items which Wheeler and de Rugy dishonestly claimed as “defense spending” really count as such:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs ($124 bn): This agency cares for past members of the military – those who no longer serve. It provides them with care, including medical care. It exercises no military functions whatsoever and has nothing whatsoever with the mission of defending America. Thus, it does not count as “military” or “defense” spending.
  • The Department of Homeland Security ($46 bn): This civilian agency, while having the mission of protecting the US, is a purely civilian and purely domestic agency. It does not prepare anyone for war and does not carry out any military operations. Its only similarly with the DOD is that it shares its broader mission of protecting America and Americans from harm… and that’s where the similarities end. It has nothing whatsoever to do with America’s military defense or the US military, save for US Coast Guard, a $5 bn portion of the DHS’s $46 bn annual budget.
  • The international affairs budget ($61 bn): Again, it has nothing to do with the US military or with defending America. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with martial issues at all, save for its small part which finances the training and equipping of certain foreign militaries (the majority of this goes to just two countries: Israel and Egypt). The vast majority of this $61 bn pot of money, however, is civilian in nature: humanitarian aid, the UN’s Millenium Challenge, fighting AIDS, US embassies and consulates, consular services, etc. Yet, de Rugy, Wheeler, POGO, and CDI falsely claim all $124 bn of this money as “defense spending”, which is a blatant lie.
  • The DOD’s healthcare programs ($21 bn): as this is a DOD program and as it pays for the healthcare of current members of the US military, this may be legitimately claimed as military spending. However, this small, $21 bn pot of money hardly changes anything in the equation.

So the vast majority of what de Rugy, Wheeler, POGO, and CDI claim as “defense” or “military spending” isn’t “defense/military spending” at all. It’s purely civilian spending and has nothing whatsoever to do with the US military and the mission of defending America; foreign aid doesn’t even have anything to with the much broader mission of national security or protecting the country, as its only purpose is for the transfer of wealth from rich to poor countries under utopian globalist schemes.

Adding the DOD’s healthcare program ($21 bn) and the Coast Guard ($5 bn) to the joint DOD-DOE military budget for FY2012 ($633 bn per the FY2012 NDAA) brings the total to $659 bn, almost $300 bn below the $928 bn number that de Rugy and Wheeler falsely  claimed and deliberately use to mislead the public.

To be clear: whatever its size is, the defense budget – and the entire rest of the federal budget – should be examined for potential savings and efficiencies – as it has already been several times since 2009. Since there is broad political agreement that such examination for potential efficiencies should be made, there is no reason to wildly exaggerate the size of the defense budget.

But de Rugy (who isn’t even an American), Wheeler, POGO, and CDI don’t care about that. They’re not interested in the truth, in careful defense savings, in the country’s security, or in the nation’s fiscal health. All they care about is gutting the US military – POGO and the CDI were founded for that very purpose, and POGO is today generously co-financed by George Soros through his Open Society Institute.

They and other enemies of America’s defense must be prevented from achieving their goal. America’s and the world’s security depends on it. And to do that, we defense conservatives must first present the public with the facts and counter de Rugy’s and Wheeler’s blatant lies. Intellectual disarmament always precedes actual disarmament.

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.

Rebuttal of Sen. Coburn’s defense cuts proposals

Among the deepest, and most destructive, proposals of defense cuts made in recent years are those made by Sen. Tom Coburn in his “Back to Black” pamphlet, which he advertises in his newest book as necessary.

If implemented (God forbid), his proposals would cut over $1 trillion out of the defense budget over the next decade (i.e. over 100 bn every year), and defense would take by far the biggest share of the hits under his plan. All other federal agencies and programs, including the Big Three entitlement programs, would see only small budget cuts by comparison – nothing even comparable to the massacre that Coburn wants to inflict on the military.

While some of his proposals would target and eliminate truly wasteful programs, the majority of his proposals, including those with the biggest budgetary consequences, pertain to crucial, absolutely needed weapon programs and force structures, cuts to which would dramatically weaken, if not outright gut, the US military and its ability to protect America. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Specifically, he proposes to:

To take a few examples:
1) Cut spending on the nuclear arsenal and the arsenal of means of delivery by $7.9 bn per year, i.e. $79 bn over a decade, for purely budgetary reasons, by:
a) cutting the nuclear stockpile down to the inadequate levels allowed by the disastrous New START treaty (former SECDEF James Schlesinger deems them “barely adequate”);
b) cutting the ICBM fleet from 450 to 300 missiles (i.e. by a whopping 200 missiles);
c) cutting the SSBN fleet from from 14 to 11 subs;
d) delaying, again, for purely budgetary reasons, the Next Generation Bomber program until the mid-2020s when it hasn’t even been allowed to begin; and
e) maintaining a reserve stockpile of just 1,100 warheads;
f) cutting the strategic bomber fleet to just 40 aircraft compared to the current 96 nuclear-capable B-2s and B-52s and 66 non-nuclear-capable B-1s.
This is the worst of all his proposals by far. The disastrous New START treaty, which does not cover tactical nuclear weapons (in which Russia has overwhelming advantage), ordered the US to cut its nuclear arsenal to already-inadequate levels, so that Russia could quickly reach strategic nuclear parity with the US while retaining its lead in tactical weapons. Cutting the US nuclear arsenal down to levels authorized by this treaty is a mistake; cutting it further would be an ever bigger mistake; cutting it by a whopping 200 ICBMs, 3 SSBNs, and hundreds of warheads would be an egregious blunder which would make America much less safe and invite a Russian nuclear first strike, as the US would have far fewer ICBMs than Russia has (at least 369, and probably up to 469).
Coburn also proposes to forego any modernization of the deterrent until the mid-2020s, including the dual-role nuclear/conventional strike bomber fleet. A requirement for a Next Generation Bomber  is real and was officially acknowledged by the DOD 5 years ago, in 2006, in that year’s Quadrennial Defense Review. It was later confirmed by the 2010 QDR. It was subsequently acknowledged by DOD leadership, including Secretary Gates, and by the DOD’s 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.
Also in 2010, the CSBA – which Coburn likes to cite as a source – released a report (authored by retired USAF Colonel Mark Gunzinger, who has participated in all defense reviews to date) stating that an NGB is an urgent requirement which must be met by 2018 at the latest and that consequently, the NGB program must not be delayed any longer.[1] Another CSBA analyst’s report reached the same conclusion in 2009.[2] Successive SECDEFs from Rumsfeld to Panetta have said the same, as have the current CSAF and SECAF, their predecessors, their colleague Adm. Greenert, former LTG David Deptulanumerous former Air Force Secretaries, Chiefs of Staff, Generals, and other officials, and numerous outside experts from the CSBA[1][2][3], Air Power Australia, and the Heritage Foundation. (Please read their studies; they explain very well why the NGB is absolutely needed.) This requirement has also been validated bySecretary Gates, who started the NGB program and said that China’s A2/AD weapons will put a premium on America’s ability to strike from the horizon and require a family of long range strike systems. As Gates rightly said in January 2011:

“It is important that we begin this project now to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service.  The follow on bomber represents a key component of a joint portfolio of conventional deep-strike capabilities – an area that should be a high priority for future defense investment given the anti-access challenges our military faces.”

Delaying/cancelling the NGB would emasculate the USAF, making it (except its small B-2 fleet) unable to operate in anything than very benign, permissive environments where opponents lack meaningful SAM systems, and thus make China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela sanctuaries for America’s enemies, allowing them to husband their assets from harm. It would send a signal to America’s enemies that Washington won’t be able to bomb them.

Delaying, or even worse, cancelling the development of the Next Generation Bomber would cause the Air Force to completely lose its already small (due to the small size of the B-2 fleet) long-range penetrating capability by the time B-2s lose that capability. This, in turn, would cause the USAF to be unable to strike any targets protected by modern IADS and/or fighters, thus creating huge sanctuaries for America’s enemies – a scenario that America cannot accept.

It is therefore imperative to begin the NGB’s development NOW – not a year from today, not in 2023, not in 2024, but NOW – and to complete it BEFORE the B-2 loses its penetrating capability. Especially since it’s the centerpiece of the AirSea Battle strategy of defeating China if need be.

If procured, the NGB will frequently be called into action, as have been the three existing bomber types, which have seen extensive action in the First Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It won’t spend much time in hangar. The demand for USAF bombers vastly outstrips the supply.

AirPowerAustralia’s peer-reviewed analysis shows that:

“Advanced Russian technology exports present a major strategic risk for the US, whether operated by China, or smaller players like Iran or Venezuela. These systems will deny access to most US ISR and combat aircraft, with only the B-2A, the “2018 bomber” and the F-22A designed to penetrate such defences. With its compromised X-band optimised stealth, the F-35 JSF will simply not be survivable in this environment.

The fallback position of standoff bombardment with cruise missiles is not viable. Only a fraction will reach their targets through such defences, and the economics of trading $500k cruise missiles for $100k interceptors, or hundreds of dollars of laser propellant, favour the defender. Time of flight is problematic given the high mobility of air defence targets, and targeting the cruise missiles no less problematic given denial of ISR coverage. (…) Current planning for 180 F-22As and the legacy fleet of 20 B-2As is simply not credible given the diversity of roles and missions, and sheer sortie count required to deal with anything above a trivial opponent.”

Likewise, CSBA expert Thomas Erhard warned in 2009 that without a Next Gen Bomber:

“The proliferation of sophisticated Russian air defense systems means the only US systems that can reliably penetrate and maintain a high survivability rate in the presence of integrated air defenses populated by SA-20B and SA-21 surface-to-air systems and modern Russian or Russian derivative (e.g., Su-35BM) fighters will be the F-22 and the B-2.” [2]

In short, the NGB is absolutely necessary, and the nuclear triad is the last part of the military that should be cut. And for all of these draconian cuts, Coburn would “save” only $7.9 bn per year, whereas my proposals of cutting the DOD’s administration spending alone would save taxpayers well over $10 bn per year. In fact, his proposals would likely not save anything close to what he promises: the entire ICBM leg of the nuclear triad costs only $1.1 bn per year, and the entire bomber leg only $2.5 bn per year, to maintain.
2) Ending the purchases of V-22 Ospreys at no more than 288 aircraft, thus allowing some Marine H-46s to retire unreplaced, and not having the V-22 Osprey as an option for the USAF’s CSARX competition. Buying MH-60s instead. The savings: a meagre $0.6 bn a year, or $6 bn over a decade.
This proposal is just as dumb as the first one. Barring the USAF’s bombers (B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s), there isn’t a single weapon type in America’s inventory that is as combat-proven and as battle-tested as the V-22, which has been widely used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It is more survivable, and can fly much farther and faster, than any other rotorcraft in history, and can fly to places where other rotorcraft cannot. When an F-15E was downed in Libya earlier this year, it was a V-22 that rescued its crew. The V-22 is a must-have aircraft type. Orders for it should be increased, not cut. And contrary to Coburn’s claim, it costs only a little more than an MH-60: $67 mn for a V-22 vs at least $44 mn for an MH-60.
Not only are they inferior to it (in terms of speed, range, and survivability), the H-60 is too small, too slow, and too light to do the V-22′s tasks (which include CSAR). These 2 designs represent 2 completely different weight and duty classes of VTOL aircraft and are meant for different duties. Only a totally ignorant person would equate them and suggest they are interchangeable.
The V-22 is an excellent VTOL plane capable of flying twice faster and twice farther than any helicopter. It has served extensively in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It has amassed over 150,000 flight hours. It is also much more survivable than helicopters – if you crash, you’ll likely survive. Its problems have been solved long ago.

The V-22 is an excellent, unmatched aircraft, as validated unanimously by all USMC leaders past and present, including the current Commandant, who is a Naval Aviator by trade. He, the expert, should be listened to – not anti-defense POGO hacks. It has proven itself in three wars in three different countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. (When an F-15E crashed in Libya, it was a pair of V-22s that rescued the pilots.) It underwent its baptism of fire in Iraq in 2007, during the fiercest fighting there. POGO’s claim that it is “neither cost- nor operationally-effective” is a blatant lie.

And as defense expert Dr. Robbin Laird writes:

“The beauty of the speed of the Osprey is that you can get the Special Operations forces where they need to be and to augment what the conventional forces were doing and thereby take pressure off of the conventional forces. And with the SAME assets, you could make multiple trips or make multiple hits, which allowed us to shape what the Taliban was trying to do.

“The Taliban has a very rudimentary but effective early warning system for counter-air. They spaced guys around their area of interest, their headquarters, etc. Then they would call in on cell or satellite phones to chat or track. It was very easy for them to track. They had names for our aircraft, like the CH-53s, which they called ‘Fat Cows.’

“But they did not talk much about the Osprey because they were so quick and lethal. And because of its speed and range, you did not have to come on the axis that would expect. You could go around, or behind them and then zip in.”

As Dr. Laird rightly writes, the V-22 isn’t just a great performer, it has revolutionized warfare and the way Marines think about it. (Please read his entire article.)

3) Canceling the Marine (STOVL) and Navy (CATOBAR) variants of the F-35, buying F/A-18E/F Super Hornets instead. The saving: a paltry $700 mn per year, i.e. $7 bn per decade.
This proposal, frequently stated by those who wish to cut the defense budget deeply, is fundamentally flawed, because it’s based on two wrong assumptions: a) a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing variant is not needed; b) the Super Bug is interchangeable with the F-35.
There is clearly a requirement for a STOVL variant, as confirmed by USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos, who is himself a Naval Aviator. He knows the F-35B better than anyone. Coburn’s assumption that a STOVL variant won’t be needed is based on wishful thinking. As for the second assumption: no, the Super Bug is not an alternative to, nor even substitute for, the F-35. It’s basically a redo of the F/A-18 Hornet, a plane that first flew in the 1970s. It can operate only in benign, uncontested airspace.

Super Bug has no such capabilities. Not turning capability, not thrust, not TTW ratio, not speed, not range and combat radius, not stealthiness (and thus survivability), and not weapons possible for integration (the F-35 can, for example, be fitted with Meteor A2A missiles; the Super Bug cannot). And the Super Bug’s combat radius (350 nmi) is DECISIVELY inferior to that of the F-35B (450-500 nmi) and F-35C (650 nmi, making the F-35C the longest-ranged of the 3 F-35 models). Range and endurance are absolutely vital for strike aircraft, as is stealthiness, because it determines survivability, which is key to winning ANY war. If a plane is not survivable, it’s worthless – and that’s exactly true of the Super Bug. And as stated above, stealthiness is necessary for any aircraft due to the proliferation and sophistication of enemy air defense systems.

The “proven” Super Bug, like B-1s and B-52s, has “proven itself” only in permissive environments (Afghanistan and Iraq) where the only opponent is an insurgency unable to contest control of the air. It is useless for any war theaters in which the enemy is a country with advanced IADS and/or fighters. It’s not even fit for any real A2A combat (and has not partaken in any), because it’s not a real fighter, but rather an attack jet, and is decisively inferior against current and projected enemy fighters by all criteria.

And it doesn’t have the STOVL capability required to take off from and land on amphib ships and primitive airfields, which is an absolute non-negotiable USMC requirement, as confirmed by USMC Commandant Gen. Amos. Without the F-35B, the Marines won’t have their own air cover when disembarking from ships and the Nation will lose 50% of its carrier-based strike aircraft fleet when the Harrier retires. Furthermore, cancelling the F-35 would relegate Marine and Naval Aviation solely to COIN environments, emasculating these services and barring them from any contested airspace – the kind of environment American servicemen will face in the future.

Put simply, the Super Bug is not an alternative to, or even a substitute for, the F-35. It’s a facelifted model of an attack jet that first flew in the 1970s. The F-35 is a 21st century strike fighter. Both are strike aircraft with jet engines… and that’s where the similarities end.

4) Retiring the USS George Washington early, cutting the carrier fleet permanently to 10 and cutting the number of carrier air wings from 10 to 9. This would save a paltry $600 mn per year, i.e. $6 bn over a decade, at a large cost to America’s defense.
This would also be reckless. Contrary to Coburn’s claim, during the Cold War, the USN needed – and always had – at least 15 carriers. Throughout the Cold War, the Navy had no fewer than 15 carriers. The flattop fleet was not cut until after the Cold War. In 2007, the Congress reluctantly agreed to cut the carrier fleet from 12 to 11, while simoultaneously writing a well-grounded requirement for at least 11 carriers into law. Last year, the Congress again reluctantly agreed to waive that requirement – but only for two years, from 2013 to 2015, until the USS Gerald R. Ford is commissioned. As studies by the Heritage Foundation have repeatedly shown, the Navy needs no fewer than 11 carriers at any one time. Cutting the carrier fleet and the number of CAWs would be reckless.

With 11 carriers, 7 are operational and 4 are in drydock or in homeport at any one time. 7 is barely enough to provide enough carrier strike groups where they’re needed. CENTCOM’s commander has requested a third carrier group (to deter Iran), which leaves just four for use elsewhere, e.g. in the WestPac.

But if the carrier fleet is cut to 10 (and they’ve suggested cutting it to just 9, by retiring the George Washington and foregoing CVN-80′s construction), no more than 6 carriers will be available for duty at any given time. Assuming that CENTCOM will get the 3 carriers it says it needs, that leaves 3 flattops for duty elsewhere, e.g. in the WestPac. Now, suppose that China starts a war over the oil/gas fields in the South China Sea at the same time that CENTCOM needs to deter (and possibly strike) Iran? That ain’t a farfetched scenario – China is close to provoking a war right now, and the time for eliminating Iran’s nuclear program is running out. [2] Yet, if Coburn gets his way, the Navy would have only 3 carriers to deploy to the WestPac to deter/defeat China… unless you deny CENTCOM the 3 carriers it needs.

Carriers have participated prominently in every war the US has partaken in since WW2: Korea, Vietnam, Operation Eldorado Canyon, the two Gulf Wars, the Afghan War, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the bombing of Libya. There’s a huge demand for them. Without carrier air wings and intercontinental bombers, the US wouldn’t have been able to strike Afghanistan after 9/11.

In short, it would be a deep cut in America’s military strength and capability to defend itself. It epitomizes Coburn’s destructive proposals.

5) Cancelling the Precision Tracking Space Satellite (PTSS) program of the Missile Defense Agency.
This program is necessary to create a constellation of 6 dedicated satellites tracking ballistic missiles, a capability that none of America’s current satellites offer, and only the Army’s AN/APY-2 radars can, which Coburn does not propose to procure.
6) Cutting the total number of troops deployed in Europe and Asia to just 45,000.
While Europe can certainly defend itself on its own, having only one plausible enemy (Russia), this cannot be said of America’s Asian allies. The US can afford to withdraw troops from Europe but not Asia, where any American drawdown would be viewed as a sign of weakness and disengagement, which Sec. Panetta and President Obama have both recently tried to prevent, trying to assure America’s Asian allies that this will not happen. Furthermore, withdrawing units from Asia would deprive them of in-theater bases needed to respond to contingencies (including aggression) such as possible Chinese aggression against its neighbors. Bases and units stationed in Europe are also needed to project power into other theaters. When a Marine unit was dispatched to reinforce the Marines at the US consulate in Benghazi, it came from NS Rota, Spain (which is just a few hours of flight away from Benghazi), NOT from the CONUS.

As Heritage Foundation’s Luke Coffey rightly writes:

“forward basing U.S. troops in Europe is just as important today as it was during the Cold War, albeit for different reasons. U.S. military bases in Europe provide American leaders with increased flexibility, resilience, and options in a dangerous world. The garrisons of American service personnel in Europe are no longer the fortresses of the Cold War, but the forward operating bases of the 21st century.

The U.S. military presence in Europe deters American adversaries, strengthens allies, and protects U.S. interests—the U.S. reduces the number of these troops at its peril. U.S. can project power and react to the unexpected because of its forward-based military capabilities in Europe. Reducing these capabilities will only weaken America on the world stage.”

So Coburn’s proposals would, if implemented, “only weaken America on the world stage.”

7) Using the $100 bn savings that Secretary Gates for deficit reduction, not for military modernization as Sec. Gates wanted and the Services – which worked hard to find these savings – were promised by Gates, President Obama, and the Congress.
These savings were to be used for a number of military modernization programs, including purchases of additional ships, modernization of the Army’s combat vehicles, and the forementioned Next Generation Bomber program. Taking that money away from them and using it to pay the bills for a deficit caused exclusively by runaway civilian spending would not just be dumb, it would be an act of heinous betrayal.
(8) Delay the Ground Combat Vehicle for purely budgetary reasons. The saving: a paltry $700 mn per year, i.e. $7 bn per decade.
For purely budgetary reasons. Do I need to say more?
9) End the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program without replacement, not with a replacement as Sec. Gates proposed.
The decision of Sec. Gates (whom Coburn quotes selectively) to cancel the over-budget, delayed Marine amphibious truck vehicle known as the EFV was the right one. However, as a replacement, Gates proposed starting a new, less complex, less costly amphib program that is scheduled to produce the first amphibious trucks in 2014, so that Gen. Amos can ride in them before he retires in late 2014. As both Gates and Amos have stated, there is a clear requirement for such a vehicle. The USMC’s obsolete, Vietnam War era AAVs must be replaced. Coburn proposes not to replace them.
1o) Cutting DOD weapon RnD spending by 10% in FY2012, then by another 10% in FY2013, and then freezing it for a further 8 fiscal years.
Again, this is motivated purely by budgetary concerns, not military ones. Coburn claims that from FY1981 to FY1988, the DOD received, in constant dollars, $407 bn, and he claims that is only $51 bn per year. He’s wrong, and apparently can’t do simple math. $407 bn divided by seven is $58.142857 bn, i.e. ca. $58.143 bn. He proposes to cut RnD spending to a paltry $58.0 bn and keep it there, even though that is LESS than what was invested during the Reagan era.
On top of that, Coburn proposes to eliminate or cut many expenditures that are outright wasteful or excessive, but rather than reinvest at least a part of them in military modernization, he proposes to use them to pay for a deficit caused exclusively by runaway civilian spending.
In short, Sen. Coburn’s defense cuts proposals, totalling over $1 trillion per decade and $100 bn per year on average, would gut the US military and thus jeopardize national security. For that reason alone, they are absolutely unacceptable.
…………………………………………….
References:

[1] Mark Gunzinger, Sustaining America’s Advantage in Long Range Strike, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington DC, 2010. Available online here.

[2] Thomas Erhard, An Air Force Strategy For the Long Haul, CSBA, Washington DC, 2009, pg. 83.

[3] Robert Haffa and Michael Isherwood, Long Range Conventional Strike: A Joint Family of Systems, Joint Force Quarterly issue #60, 1st quarter of 2011, National Defense University, Washington DC, 2011, available online here.

[4] According to retired LTG David Deptula, the need for a next-gen bomber was validated as early as the 2001 QDR, pointing to anti-access/access-denial threats and to contested airspace in particular. See here.

Romney Is Not Reagan, But Is The Best Option

While it was definitely one of the elements, Ronald Reagan did more to help defeat the Soviet Union than conduct financial warfare via economic pressures.  U.S. defense spending increased during his administration.  Having faced the brunt of Adolf Hitler’s blitzkrieg, which was built post WWI in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, the Soviet Union’s Politburo watched this spending increase and knew its meaning.  That understanding and their fear of SDI made them respect Reagan and convinced them that Reagan was willing AND READY to protect, defend and advance American influence and power around the globe.  Reagan saw the USA as a force for good around the world.  Had he been merely interested in protecting the territorial landmass of the United States he would not have lifted a finger to help free Eastern Europe from Soviet oppression.

This increase in defense spending was an underlying cause of budget deficits that “progressives” still use to smear Reagan’s name and justify tax hikes under the misperception/misinterpretation/misrepresentation/outright lie that “Reagan’s tax cuts led to huge deficits”.  That lie is currently being recycled for the George W. Bush tax cuts.  It was also the “justification” behind a “progressive” offer to “compromise” with Reagan: Spending cuts (which never happened) in exchange for tax increases (that did).  A dishonest tactic they also employed on Bush the elder.  To this day, “progressive” Democrats love to harp about how “Reagan raised taxes…Reagan raised taxes”.

…*squawk*…Polly want a cracker.

“progressives” refuse to even think about thinking about addressing the true cause of America’s exploding debt: Big government “progressive” socialist “entitlement” programs which make people less self-reliant and more government dependent.  Worse yet, today, in the name of “social justice” and/or “economic justice” “progressives” use the emotional argument that “we need to take care of the less fortunate” by enacting additional “entitlement” programs (obamacare, massive increase in food stamps usage, etc.) and further hocking America’s future by giving boatloads of freebies to illegal aliens.

To balance the budget and follow the Constitution, the United States needs to defund and disassemble all the central planning, control “the masses”, big spending, socialist programs and dismantle entire Cabinet Departments that over-spend taxpayer’s money while stifling business and indoctrinating America’s children into hating America, free market Capitalism and believing Socialism and Communism are not so bad (Viva Che!).  There is no Constitutional authority for Social Security, Medicare or obamacare.  You can thank “progressive” FDR’s willingness to bully and threaten the Supreme Court into submission for their existence.  Likewise, there is no Constitutional authority for the Department of Energy or the Department of Education, the EPA and other unaccountable bureaucracies.

There is Constitutional authority for defense.

There are calls for cuts in defense as part of plans to balance the budget.  Peace through strength does not mean unilateral disarmament through cuts in defense.

Peace through strength means that you have, and your enemies KNOW that you have the military capability and the willingness, even if reluctantly, to do the following:

If attacked, the United States will declare war on its attackers and turn where they live into a crater filled parking lot that looks more like the moon than part of planet earth.  Then the U.S. will bring its troops home and leave the attackers to rebuild their lives without any help from the United States.  Anytime they or anyone else chooses to attack the U.S, it is guaranteed this process will be repeated.  That goes for Communist China, Imperialist Russia, Fascist Islam, their surrogates and everyone else.

For so long as there are enemies to the United States, this readiness must be maintained.

If the rest of the world wants to live in peace, they will keep peace with the United States.  We will be happy to engage in international commerce and mutually beneficial interactions.  If they choose to fight, they are toast.

This conclusion is reached by studying history and independent of the influence of America’s corrupt “mainstream media”.  Oh so lovingly referred to as the “progressive” Party Pravda.  It was blatantly obvious from day one that “Conservative” FOX News was in the tank for Romney.  Romney was nowhere near the top of many lists for the GOP nomination.

True Reagan Conservatives who voted for and lived in America during his Presidency, and witnessed that President Reagan’s winning coalition was based on fiscal responsibility, American security and the championing of America’s traditional moral values and principles, Conservatives will rally around Mitt Romney.

Given a choice between a peace through strength Romney, cut defense to balance the budget Ron Paul and gut defense to have more money to spend on socialist programs obama, Romney is clearly the best option.

http://mjfellright.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/romney-is-not-reagan-but-is-the-best-option/

Entitlements, not military spending is the reason behind our enormous debt!

Contrary to popular opinion, the enormous national debt crisis we find ourselves in is not due to an escalation in military spending, but is a direct result in the steady increase in entitlement spending. The disagreement over the cause of the debt exists not only between the Democrats and Republicans, but it also creates a painful and unnecessary rift between conservatives and our libertarian friends.

The Heritage Foundation has research that shows that this problem isn’t even just a factor of the last administration, but in fact entitlement spending has been increasing steadily as a percentage of GDP while at the same time defense spending has gone down since 1965 despite the fact that the United States has been involved in three wars. (This author includes the support of the conflict in Libya.)  In fact, defense spending spiked shortly after the start of the Viet Nam war and has been steadily going down, while entitlements have ballooned out of control.

The President’s budget for 2012 and beyond further cuts the military budget to a dangerously low 3.4% of GDP, making many nervous about the ability of the US military to defend the nation against threats around the world.

The author of this report notes that the high point coming after 1965 is not even the high overall. The highest ratio of military spending to GDP came after World War II at the beginning of the Cold War when spending on defense was 25 percent!

It should be noted that when Ronald Reagan came into office in the 1980s, he licked the Soviets without firing a shot, increasing defense spending to 6.2 percent, which is above the 45-year average of 5.2 percent. Reagan showed proof positive that the enemies of America will back down if you show them a shiny sword, rattling it in front of their faces. He did this without any major deployments and without any major loss of life, effectively winning the Cold War and breaking the back of the Soviet Union.

Following Reagan, defense spending went drastically down, allowing extremists around the world to believe, in my opinion, that the United States is an inviting target. Notice that defense spending it at its lowest just before the attacks on 9/11.

Heritage Foundation author Baker Spring has the nut graph of the story brilliantly illustrating the point I’m trying to make in his report dated from April of 2011, quoting Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

“Defense is not like other discretionary spending. This is something we’ve got to do and that we have a responsibility to do. And so the two shouldn’t be equated. They have not been equated in the past. I mean, that’s why they call it non-defense discretionary spending and so on.

…I got it that we’ve got a $1.6 trillion deficit. But defense is not a significant part of that problem. If you took a 10 percent cut in defense, which would be catastrophic in terms of capabilities, that would be $50 billion on a $1.6 trillion deficit.”

See the report in its entirety at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/04/the-fy-2012-defense-budget-proposal-looking-for-cuts-in-all-the-wrong-places?utm_source=Chartbook&utm_medium=researchpaper&utm_campaign=budgetchartbook

Pay special attention, if you will, to Mr. Spring’s conclusion. He is much more eloquent than I.

In the final analysis, decreases in military funding would do very little to decreasing the overall debt we’ve accumulated. The answer is that the president and congress has to sharply decrease spending to keep pace with the revenue it takes in. To do that, they have to take aim at the biggest target, discretionary and entitlement spending.

Conservatives and Libertarians are often butting heads over different points of view on this issue, which is why I bring it up. Here is a short clip from the debates that illustrates differences between libertarian and conservative points of view.

 Notice the discussion that takes place between minute 1:27and 6:15.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfcvzhGu0WA

 

Senator John McCain Blasts Big Government Grifters Taxpayer Abuse

Obama creates debt commission, then ignores their solutions

A grifter is defined by urbandictionary.com as a: someone who swindles you through deception or fraud, and b: a grifter is an expert in illicit acquisition of goods or services through various methods of over confident flim-flammery and fast talking. Apparently several members of Congress today fit both definitions of the term grifter, as outlined above. Senator John McCain took to the floor of the United States Senate today to call out the unauthorized spending, waste, and pay-for-play disservice to the American taxpayer that was slid into the current 2012 defense spending bill. This is where the term Big Government Grifter comes into play.

The Maverick Really Gets Fired Up! Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was livid about the wasteful spending he discovered that was tucked into the defense spending bill, and repeatedly slammed his fist down on the podium in an expression of utter disgust as he gave his floor speech today. The text of the entire speech is available here, and the following are just a few examples of exactly what was also mentioned in this article on the current omnibus spending bill also being rammed through Congress this week:

Mr. President, I come to the floor today to discuss the Fiscal Year 2012 Omnibus Appropriations bill that the House just passed this afternoon and the Senate will vote on tomorrow. Once again, the Senate is faced with a thousand-plus page behemoth of an appropriations bill and very little in the way of authorizations to support it. So here we are, at the end of another calendar year, cramming what should be months of actual debate and legislating into hours of reckless appropriating.

As was detailed in this CDN article, this points to a pattern of being done by design to avoid any forms of Congressional accountability and transparency. In a statement that backs that theory up, Senator McCain called upon Senator Coburn today to bring to light the fact that Congress is currently severely cutting funding to the Government Accountability Office in 2012. The GAO is the non-partisan watchdog that helps the government weed out waste and fraud to protect the taxpayers. The current planned cuts for the 2012 budget will result in a total of 400 less employees at the GAO.

Here are some bullet points from Mr. McCain’s Senate floor speech today:

So let’s compare last years omnibus debacle to this years:

• “Last year – 1,924 pages. This year – 1,221 pages.
• “Last year – all 12 annual appropriations bills. This year – nine of the annual appropriations bills.
• “Last year – over $1.1 trillion in spending. This year – over $915 billion in spending or $1.043 trillion if you include the three bills we’ve already passed. That works out to be a reduction of 5% from last year to this year. Taxpayers get a better deal at a Macy’s Christmas sale.
• “Last year – 6,488 earmarks totaling nearly $8.3 billion. This year – no traditional “earmarks” but over $3.5 billion in unauthorized spending in DoD alone.
“So should we consider this progress? Are we doing anything differently? The national debt is now at the record level of over $15 trillion, which is more than $48,000 per citizen, yet we have failed to make any significant, meaningful spending cuts and we continue with business as usual.

Senator McCain went on to outline how the whole appropriations process is fundamentally flawed today. “We have a fundamental problem in the Senate, Mr. President, of being unable to engage in the process of authorizing prior to regular appropriations. And what is the outcome? A handful of appropriators and unelected staffs disburse hundreds of billions of dollars, often in a manner that directly contravenes the will of the authorizers. Consequently, at the 11th hour of the process, we ram through an omnibus measure so that we can get out of town for the holidays. It’s disgraceful Mr. President.”

Mr. McCain goes on to show us how unauthorized spending has been injected into the defense spending bill through this rushed-through omnibus bill they are now being forced to pass.
This omnibus contains a number of objectionable provisions: (shortened versions)

Guam is getting earmarks of $33 million U.S. taxpayer dollars for 53 civilian school buses,and a cultural artifacts depository. (museum) Sen. McCain added, “I can only say that the many citizens of Arizona who are out of work, whose homes have been lost due to the economic downturn, who would benefit from any sort of action by the Federal Government to create jobs and ease their burdens, feel nothing but outrage when they see this kind of blatant waste and abuse of the political system that has gone on for years and years and years. But that’s not the end of this sad story. Within this initial funding grant to Guam of $33 million is $9.6 million for the first phase of a mental health facility that advocates claim is somehow related to the proposed military buildup on Guam. I’m still trying to sort this argument out, but I have that odd feeling that to do so I must go down the rabbit hole to Alice in Wonderland.

And Senator McCain was just getting wound up in the first 10 minutes of today’s floor speech, to which he added about the Guam mental health facility to be built with U.S. Taxpayer dollars: “And, of course, this $9.6 million dollars of pork in the FY12 Defense Appropriations bill is only the down payment, the ‘nose of the camel under the tent’ you might say, because to complete the facility as required to satisfy the already existing federal injunction against Guam, another $33 million will be required next year in 2013 to finish out the project as well as building a new public health laboratory. Wonderful!”
Senator McCain went on to mention the Tea Party and how fed-up Americans are with these kinds of Big Government Grifters that are doing this kind of wasteful, reckless spending:

The American people have seen this kind of abuse and waste for far too often, and they have had enough of it. They are convinced Congress never learns. And by this example, it’s hard to say they are wrong. In fact, this sort of complete waste and abuse of the taxpayers’ money proves they are exactly right.”

To which he added: “If you don’t understand the rise of the Tea Party, you can start by looking right here.”

The second half of Senator McCain’s Senate floor speech was just as informative as the first half as he laid out such things as other provisions. “The Defense portion of the Omnibus contains some $3.5 billion in unrequested, unauthorized spending for items that are not core, high-priority Defense requirements. As you will see, Mr. President, many old favorites appear on the list.” Again, I urge all concerned citizens to check the complete list of waste, fraud, and taxpayer abuse found in the latest omnibus bill, brought to you by the Big Government Grifters of Congress, and outlined on Senator McCain’s website.

Footnote: How ironic is this fact? Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) Is on the House floor giving a speech right now, saying how wonderful the tireless staff on the House Appropriations Committee have been while working on this omnibus bill. Mr. Rogers is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Maybe he should give Senator John McCain a call and have a discussion about just how wonderful this pork-laden, fraud-upon-the-taxpayers omnibus truly is for the U.S. Taxpayer.

A Better Way To Cut The Deficit

The Congressional Supercommittee has failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan. Personally, I’m thankful for that, since the very existence of the “supercommittee” was a Constitutional violation.

I won’t get into a long explanation here of the debated cuts-which-weren’t-actually-cuts, or the sequestration of funds, or the odd process by which the supercommittee would have presented a bill. It would be too much like explaining a Rube Goldberg invention.

Instead, I’ll discuss the other budget proposal, the one which the supercommittee apparently never considered: Just stop spending!

Let me explain: According to the Congressional Budget Office, a “cut” includes any reduction in planned future spending, even if the total amount spent is greater than current spending. To use Neil Cavuto’s analogy, it’s similar to a diet where a person plans to gain 100 pounds in ten years, but instead only gains 50 pounds and calls it a “reduction”. The “cuts” the supercommittee considered were “cuts” of this type.

The Tea Party proposal, which wasn’t even considered by the supercommittee, would have frozen federal spending for ten years. That’s it. Project the federal budget for 2021 at $3.8 trillion- the current amount.

By CBO’s standard, this would have scored as a $9 trillion cut over ten years- and bring federal spending into virtual balance.

This proposal presents one challenge: Certain areas of federal spending will naturally increase over time- namely, Social Security (as new retirees begin collecting benefits), interest payments on the national debt, and “other federal mandatory spending” (the U.S. government’s contractual obligations).

In order to offset these anticipated increases over the long term, actual cuts would be needed in other areas immediately. To give an idea of the shape of these cuts, here is a pie chart (image right) of federal spending from 2010 (the current proportions are very similar).

Something you’ll notice right away: 80% of the federal budget is made up of just six expenses: Social Security, the Department of Defense, other federal mandatory spending, Medicare, Medicaid/SCHIP, and interest on the national debt. The other 20% is “everything else“.

The Tea Party proposal didn’t include specific cuts. Simply an agreement to freeze the budget would have been a huge victory. I’ll take a little license here and make some “proposals” of my own to keep the budget amount at roughly $3.8 trillion for ten years.

1) Freezing the military budget isn’t a bad thing. Admiral Mike Mullen offered a $100 billion reduction is DoD spending in 2010, which he said could be accomplished without making major changes to our military posture, defunding current operations, or defaulting on contractual obligations. I’ll take Adm. Mullen at his word, and assume that these cuts could also be implemented in the form of reducing expenditures over time by freezing the military budget (and assuming that some of our current operations will end within the next ten years).

2) Offset growth in “other federal mandatory spending” by cutting in other areas. The “other federal mandatory spending” category is made up of the federal government’s contractual obligations- military and civil service pensions, federal unemployment extension funds promised to the states, food stamp and HEAP funds, etc.

It goes without saying that there is substantial work to be done in reducing (and in some cases, eliminating) these expenditures- but this is work that can only be done over the long-term. Among these solutions would be transferring responsibility for food and heating assistance to the states, privatizing long-term unemployment insurance, converting future federal pensions into defined contribution programs, and the like. Naturally, some of the solution to these expenses is fixing our broken economy, which is far too long a subject for this post.

In the short term (i.e. over the next ten years), the amount of these expenses would have to be offset.

3) Paul Ryan is right- privatize Medicare (and block-grant Medicaid). Ryan’s plan, which includes an $18,000 annual premium subsidy and, for low-income seniors, a cash account of up to $9,500 to offset out-of-pocket expenses, will reduce the projected cost increases of Medicare- but it will still increase in cost as more baby boomers enter retirement.

Offset these increases by cutting Medicaid funding by 20% or more, and block-granting the remaining funds to the states. Federal regulations add to the states’ cost of supplying Medicaid, so cutting regulations offsets some of the reductions in funds. Let the states decide how to spend the rest of the money- for example, Mitch Daniels’ highly-effective (and cost-reducing) “Healthy Indiana Plan”.

Also: It strikes me as a total failure of the GOP message machine that the generous amounts proposed by Ryan- $18,000 in insurance premiums and $9,500 in a cash account- weren’t being used to sell the idea. Imagine this conversation by pundits on TV:

Democrat Pundit: “Ryan’s plan will kill Medicare, which is a great program!”
Republican Pundit: “Seniors would get up to $27,000 every year to buy insurance and pay out-of-pocket costs, and seniors get to choose their own insurance and keep their own doctor.”

Argument killed.

4) Offset increases in interest payments by cutting departments. Since the budget won’t balance overnight, the national debt would increase in the short-term. This means interest payments on the national debt would increase as well. In the long term, we’ll need strategies for paying down the debt- sale of federal lands, for example- but in the short-term, we can offset the expected increase in interest payments by cutting federal agencies. This is where the “everything else” which makes up 20% of the total budget comes into play.

There are lots of opportunities here- eliminate the Departments of Education, Commerce, and uhh… (yes, I know, it’s an old joke). Cut earmarks and foreign aid. You, the reader, undoubtedly know these talking points by now, so I won’t waste your time repeating them.

5) The big one: Social Security. This is the area which will grow exponentially over the next ten to fifteen years, as the Baby Boom generation enters retirement. It’s also a political minefield: Freezing social security payment amounts would mean political suicide for the GOP.

Again, there’s a long-term fix for Social Security in the form of privatization. But, as with any long-term solution, there’s a short-term problem to address as well.

What’s needed here is a “bold plan” (please forgive the Herman Cain-ism), and Walter Williams has one: Offer an exchange of Social Security payments for a federal land grant. The federal government currently holds 29% of the landmass of the continental United States- nearly 650 million acres. Offering this land to those who will enter Social Security in 10-20 years, in exchange for their Social Security payments, could accomplish two things:

a) offset projected Social Security expenses;

b) create a demand for development in the states where this land is held- Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Nevada, etc.- for new home construction, road development, electrical, natural gas, and water supply systems, service-oriented businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants, and the like.

I think this is a terrific idea, and merits much more attention than it currently recieves.

In sum: It’s easy to overcome the budget hyperbole from both sides of the aisle and see a solution to our budget problems. All you need is a calculator, a pie chart, and Occam’s razor.

The Super Committee Fails – Medicare and Defense to Suffer

Heartache and disappointment were thick throughout twitter, facebook and the comments on articles across the internet on the news that the Congressional “Super Committee” on deficits had failed. In actuality, nothing has actually happened.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of the committee, penned an account of why the committee failed. In short, the Democrats dismissed the three major Republican ideas out-of-hand, promised to bring back plans of their own and never did.

First, democrats took any and all spending related to President Obama’s health care plan off the table. Then rejected Bill Clinton’s budget director’s plan, then rejected ideas from the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles commission. After quickly killing all three ideas, two from bi-partisan or Democrat sources, the committee democrats came back with their own plan… er ..  not really.

To put this in perspective, there were exactly 6 democrats and 6 Republicans on the committee. There was one Republican and one democrat co-chair. No one side had more say, more power or more influence than the other.

The Republicans presented three ideas, the Democrats refused them and presented nothing in return.

On to the important part – why should anyone care?

In a word, sequestration – the automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that will occur in 2013 if Congress doesn’t pick up the ball dropped by the committee. Those cuts will happen “equally” in national defense spending and domestic programs should Congress not be able to find $1.2 trillion in cuts.

The CBO estimates that the cuts will take almost 10% from the defense budget and would cut Medicare by up to 2% of the program’s costs.

The Medicare cuts should be alarming to anyone on the federal medical program. 100% of the cuts come in the form of cuts on the amount paid to providers. If providers are paid less, we’ll see them opt out of the program and seniors will have fewer choices of where to get care. Medicare is expected to lose about $125 billion in funding from 2013 to 2021.

The toll on America’s ability to defend itself will likely be impaired as well. Just under $500 billion in cuts are expected to have to be swallowed by the nation’s military. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), House Armed Services committee chariman, said that he will be proposing a bill to head-off the sequestration cuts to defense spending. Rep McKeon said that his legislation is necessary because the cuts would cause “catastrophic damage to our men and women in uniform.”

President Obama’s response was to continue the Democrat strategy – just say no to anything the Republicans propose. On Monday evening, the President noted that “Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts, my message to them is simple: No.”  The president continued by threatening to veto any measure to hold back the cuts to Medicare or the country’s armed services.

Unfortunately, with or without the sequester the end is the same – out-of-control spending. Veronique de Rugy of Mercatus Center wrote:

Changes in spending from sequestration result in new budget projections below the CBO’s baseline projection of spending based on current law. The federal government would spend $3.62 trillion in the first year with sequestration versus the $3.69 trillion projected by CBO. By 2021, the government would spend $5.26 trillion versus the $5.41 trillion projected. Overall, without a sequester, federal spending would increase $1.7 trillion over those ten years (blue line). With a sequester, federal spending would increase over ten years by $1.6 trillion (red line).

Despite the stonewalling from Democrats, some polls show that a slight majority of Americans will blame Republicans for the failure of the 50/50 split bi-partisan committee despite most Americans opposing sequestration.

The super committee was a failed idea with a designed end. Democrats knew all along that they weren’t going to do anything. They couldn’t even bring themselves to propose a single plan. Now that the extra-legislative body has failed, what is the next step?

Since the cuts don’t take effect until 2013, the only course of action left for Conservatives who wish to see discipline returned to the budget process is to win the Senate and White House in 2012. At that point, a responsible budget can be put in place and the sequestration can be done away with.

July Durable Goods Orders Come in Better Than Expected

New orders for manufactured durable goods in July increased $7.7 billion or 4.0 percent to $201.5 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today.

The report showed a return from weakness mainly in automobiles and aircraft manufacturing. And some renewed weakness in the defense sector.

Excluding transportation, new orders increased just 0.7 percent. Cars and auto parts grew a much more than expected 11.7% over June probably illustrating a recovery from the impacts of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Commercial aircraft and parts also contributed to the positive report with a 7.9% month-over-month increase in shipments and a surprising increase of 43.4% in new orders.

The negative side of the report focused on defense spending. Military aircraft and parts shipments dropped 9.7% and new orders were 6.1%. In June the same sector had seen new orders drop more than 20%.

 

 

The Debt Ceiling Deal, the “Trigger,” and Defense Budget Cuts

The Debt Ceiling Deal, the “Trigger,” and Defense Budget Cuts

The Deal

The “Debt Ceiling Deal,” a compromise negotiated by Republicans and Democrats over this past week-end (30, 31 July, 11) proposes, among other things, a $350 billion cut in the defense budget over the next ten years. That proposal is bad enough, but … the “deal” also establishes a bi-partisan Congressional committee that will look for ways (determine a path) to cut an additional $1.5 trillion. If that committee fails to reach an agreement, or should Congress fail to enact a plan to reduce spending, an automatic reduction (the “trigger”) in spending will occur, with half coming from domestic spending (about $600 Billion) and half (about $600 billion on TOP of the $350 billion already cut) coming from the defense budget. Overall, defense comprises about 20% of the entire US budget. In 2010, defense spent $530 billion, not including war costs.

“The bottom line is these [initial] cuts [of $350 billion] are not life-altering for the Pentagon,” said Gordon Adams, a professor at American University who specialized in defense spending. “They live to fight another day.” Still, even with cuts of that magnitude, the military would retain its position as the world’s best fighting force, with unmatched capabilities on land, at sea and in the air. But that is of little comfort to defense hawks on Capitol Hill.

But the real pain will come if Congress can’t or won’t agree on a second round of general budget cuts. If that happens, the “trigger” will be pulled and defense will get hit with another $600 billion in cuts over 10 years. “In a scenario where a trigger is activated, you are dealing with cuts far beyond what the Pentagon wanted,” Travis Sharp, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said.

Republican congressmen on the House Armed Services Committee are already denigrating defense budget cuts, saying they risk military readiness. And Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday, “If fully implemented, the consequences to our nation’s defense infrastructure would be severe. And these deep cuts would come at a time when threats to our nation are increasing, not declining.”

Affects of Budget Cuts On Defense

Said John Bolton on July 31, 2011, “Defense has already taken hugely disproportionate cuts under President Obama, and there is simply no basis for expanding those cuts further. Republican negotiators must hold the line, since the Obama Administration plainly will not.”

Army General Martin Dempsey warned that it would be “extraordinarily difficult and very high risk” to cut $800 billion from defense spending as part of efforts to reduce the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt. He continued in his Senate nomination hearing, “National security didn’t cause the debt crisis nor will it solve it.”

General Joseph Dunford, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said, “I think if they were to exceed $400 billion we would start to have to make some fundamental changes in the capability of the Marine Corps. That would mean a smaller force and a reassessment of its strategic mission.”

General Philip Breedlove, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, said cuts of $400 billion will cause “quite some concern” about money to replace the Air Force’s aging aircraft fleet. Strategic bombers are, on average, 34 years old, refueling tankers 47 years old, and airlift planes 19 years old.

Senator John McCain criticized the pressure to cut military spending without first understanding the impact on strategy. Said McCain, “Defense spending is not what is sinking this country into fiscal crisis, and if the Congress and the president act on that flawed assumption, they will create a situation that is truly unaffordable: the hollowing out of U.S. military power and the loss of faith of our military members.”

Our enemies will take advantage of this “hollowed out” weakness. We will have to spend much more in the future to catch up, fight off threats, and lower our heightened risk.

The Choice Between Defense and Entitlements

Liberals see our nation’s security as a bargaining chip and fail to recognize that defense spending is not the cause of the problem, and that these cuts put our troops and our national security at risk. Observers know the problem is entitlement spending, not the defense budget or a lack of revenue. Defense spending is, at most, 5.2% of GDP, despite wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) grew from 2.5 percent of GDP in 1965 to over 10 percent today.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) said, “The Army and Marines are stretched dangerously thin, separated from their families, and using hardware that has been chewed up by a decade of fighting.” Randy Forbes (R-VA) said: “If they have to make these cuts it’ll have to come out of personnel, and they’ll have to reduce their force structure, and they’ll have to have a new strategy for how they defend the United States of America.” Congressman Allen West (R-FL) called potential defense cuts “incredible” and “unconscionable.”

Consequences

Congressional conservatives fought to achieve a balanced budget, while protecting our defenses, and without raising taxes. But the final “deal,” favored by liberals on Capitol Hill and in the White House, sets up America for the worst possible outcome – job-killing tax hikes and safety-risking defense cuts – while entitlement spending continues to rise.

But that’s just my opinion.

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