Tag Archives: POGO

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.


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.