Tag Archives: Military Spending

Engaging Young Voters on Defense Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On military spending: Having your cake and eating it too

Earlier this week, one of our contributors wrote an article stating that he thought Romney’s position on defense spending cuts is incorrect. This afternoon, the editorial staff received a letter-to-the-editor from “Rockwall Science Guy” in response to the original post.

This is written in response to Eye Desert’s column regarding the impending defense cuts.
“There can also be reforms into how military contracts are handed out… (anyone remember the $640 toilet seat?).”
Do you know why that toilet seat costs $640? The simplistic answer is that there is too much bureaucracy. It costs that much because it takes several people to approve a purchase. Every time a purchase has to be bumped up the ladder, not only does that person have to look at it (and add to the amount of man-hours it takes to get a toilet approved), but that next guy up costs more (not to mention it took some man-hours to fill out the form in the first place). Why does it take this many levels of approval? Because we don’t want just anyone to be able to buy things because we do not want waste. But isn’t a $640 toilet seat wasteful? Of course! Then give the lower people the ability to buy stuff. Ok, but once that happens, you buy the leather seat covers to go with it. Or you buy things you might not need because you might need them. See what I’m getting at here? This is not unique to government. At a company I used to work for, if I need to buy $5 for 100 cheap parts (which includes shipping), the sum total that the $5 part costs was much higher, on the order of $100. Why? Because I cannot buy things directly. I have to search for the part, specify which parts I need (including alternates if available), and send it to purchasing. Purchasing then codes the purchase (to make sure that the receive inspection is able to properly accept or reject it if it does not meet our standards), issues the paper version of the purchase order in the system, and places the order. This is just of a catalogue based purchase such as Digikey or Mouser. When the order finally arrives, the parts come in a daily UPS or FedEx drop off (no one uses the US mail). The receiver has to take in that day’s packages and sort through them. For each package, he has to go through and look at each purchase order to see what was supposed to come with each and whether or not someone needs to inspect it. If no one needs to inspect it and the order is received in full, he places the parts to the side and records it as received. If it needs inspection, it goes into a cart that will be inspected by a quality control person. Once it is inspected per the codes, it is either accepted and delivered to me or rejected and sent back. At some point typically no later than 30 days, someone else in the purchasing department will issue a check for $5.
Now, considering a single toilet costs $150 and up from Home Depot, start doing the same process as I suggested except now the toilet has to make sure to meet ADA, MILSPEC, and possibly other applicable federal standards on toilets. We would not want a disabled veteran to not be able to use the toilet your tax dollars paid for. Am I suggesting that we possibly have too many federal standards (including the military)? Quite possibly. Regarding the military specifically, it would be nice to reduce the number of these standards, but there is one problem: even changing a small standard in one place can ripple through the entire body and have unintended consequences. You need to audit and study the effects. This is why standards take so long to change or produce in the first place.
Do you know why so many military programs cost so much? It is because, for the most part, the proposals and bidding have to be open to so many people. It’s also because the standards for the military parts is so very much higher than normal products. Imagine an iPhone having to work in Saudi Arabia with gloves and sand and also that it has to work off the coast of Norway with sea salt spray and freezing temperatures. Also imagine someone stepping on it with their boot. As you can imagine, the costs tend to go up. Then tack on the requirement that for every item you say you can do, you have to document and prove that you actually did it (so that tax dollars are not wasted). When you sum these things up, it costs so much more than a commercial endeavor ever would (and remain profitable). Not only that, but our stuff has to not just work, but be good. If the welder misses grinding down a seam on the F-22, it goes from appearing the equivalent size of a metal BB to the size of a bus. That’s one seam! You have to make sure you don’t have these issues for any, or radar will spot you like Elton John in concert garb at the First Baptist Church on Easter Sunday.
Does the military waste money? Absolutely. The biggest question is this: can we be a world power protecting our interests abroad with less military? The euphemistically crude “sequestration” that Obama is all to happy to have happen is akin to using a sledge hammer to remove the cancer when a scalpel should be used. Even the biggest tumors still get cut away using precise instruments.
Incidentally, ever notice how sequestration and castration rhyme? In this context, they’re not far off from each other.
One thing I wish would get more taking time is how amazingly two faced our president is. Did you know that by law, numerous recipients of military contracts (including Lockheed Martin) are supposed to warn their employees of a pending layoff? Sequestration effectively terminates large numbers of these employees of private companies through the loss of their contracts. Obama has issued guidance that if Lockheed Martin failed to notify their staff, Lockheed Martin would not be affected by disregarding this law. The justification before was that Obama knew that the 20% budget cut would not happen because he and law makers would keep it from happening. Now it seems that he either has changed his mind, or was lying about his intentions. Regardless of whether or not the 20% cut goes through, any other story besides this is burying the lede. The lede should be that the president encourages lawlessness when politically expedient. They only had to keep silent to refrain from encouraging lawlessness. They did the opposite. This is having your cake (encouraging something that directly leads to layoffs) and eating it too (issuing guidance for Lockheed Martin to break the law so you avoid the consequences of your policy decisions).
-Rockwall Science Guy

The letter was posted as-is with no editorial changes.

Military’s Aging Aviation Force Puts America at Risk

This video from the Heritage Foundation explains America’s dependence on aging aircraft.

Dave Deptula, a retired three-star general, has witnessed this “geriatric aviation force” firsthand. He earned his wings and flew an F-15 for the first time in 1977. Thirty years later, another Deptula boarded the aircraft. His son flew the same F-15 at Kadena Air Force.

Mitchell & Ray – 1/26 – SOTU and Stupid Conservatives

When: Thursday, January 26th, 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific

Where:Streaming Internet Radio

What: Join independent political commentators Michelle Ray and Rich Mitchell as they discuss the issues impacting Americans.

 

Tonight: SOTU, Stupid Conservatives, the Candidate-Go-Round, Debt ..Ceiling? and Military Cuts.

 

Show Recordings:

Listen to internet radio with CDNews Radio

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and .. the non-flash, iGadget-friendly version:

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