Zbigniew Mazurak's Blog

A blog dedicated to defense issues

10 reasons NOT to cut defense spending

Posted by zbigniewmazurak on March 21, 2012


The opponents of a strong defense are bombarding the American people and the Congress with lies designed to mislead them, lull them into a false sense of security, and get them to agree to cut defense spending deeply. In this post, I shall present 10 compelling reasons why defense spending should NOT be cut – not at all.

1) Defense is the most important function, indeed the most important Constitutional duty, of the federal government.

While the federal government has few Constitutional functions (most prerogatives are reserved by the 10th Amendment to the states and the people), and most of these are permissive and not compulsory, defense is obligatory and is the highest Constitutional obligation of the federal government. It’s not something that the federal government “may do” if it wants to. It’s something that the federal government is OBLIGATED to do by the Constitution. Yet, Obama’s federal budgets (as well as those of many previous presidents) have made defense their lowest priority.

According to the Preamble to the Supreme Law of the land, the need to provide for the common defense is actually one of the reasons 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 17 prerogatives of the Congress, nine (i.e., over50%) 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.  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.”

Art. IV, Sec. 4 of the Constitution obligates the federal government to provide for the common defense:

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

2) Defense has already been cut disproportionately deeply, contrary to claims that it has so far been “off the table”.

After all defense cuts of FY2010, FY2011, and FY2012, and after the disastrous New START treaty, defense is slated for further cuts – at least $487 bn, and perhaps as much as $1.087 trillion (if sequestration proceeds), over a decade. No other government department or agency has, or is obliged to, make even half as deep budget cuts.

Defense spending has NEVER enjoyed “protected status”. It has been dramatically reduced in real terms, and as a percentage of GDP, numerous times during the last 65 years alone: year-on-year during the late 1940s, during the 1950s (after the Korean War), during the entire 1970s, and during the entire 1980s (actually, from FY1987 until FY2002, when defense spending grew slightly for the first time since FY1986). And even during periods when the Congress did not reduce total defense spending, it did close or cut many crucial weapon programs – even during the Bush era when the Comanche, XM2001, E-10MCA, and J-UCAS programs were closed and many other weapon programs (e.g. the F-22, F-35, Zumwalt class and San Antonio class programs) were significantly reduced. During FY2010 and FY2011, the Congress closed or cut over 50 DOD weapon programs. In January 2011, Robert Gates achieved another 178 bn in savings. Then, in August 2011, President Obama signed into law a debt ceiling deal which orders the DOD to cut its core budget by another $450 bn (Obama has increased that goal to $487 bn) and in November 2011, the Super Committee triggered a sequester which will cut the DOD’s core budget by another $600 bn over a decade. (Under the sequester, the DOD, which has already contributed far more to deficit reduction than any other government agency, will have to bear 50% of the cuts even though it accounts for merely 19% of the federal budget.)

And that will not be achieved by mere “efficiencies”, it will mean drastic cuts in personnel numbers, modernization programs, the force structure, and benefits programs for the troops, which means breaking faith with them. As the Wall Street Journal has recently rightly noted:

“The Administration’s record to date is undeniable. Defense was targeted from day one in office, and Mr. Obama disguised his latest, steepest retrenchment as part of a new “strategic review” earlier this month.”

By contrast, other federal departments and agencies have not had to make any serious cuts, and in most cases, any cuts whatsoever! For example, the State Department’s budget has more than doubled since President Obama took office, entitlement programs have been growing rapidly nonstop, and the Department of Homeland Security, which does nothing to protect Americans but much to harrass innocent passengers, has seen rapid growth of its budget and has requested $59 bn for FY2013.

3) The DOD’s budget amounts to less than 20% of total federal spending. There won’t be any big savings in it, nowhere near enough to even halve the deficit.

The FY2012 budget under the NDAA is $644.5 bn: a core defense budget of $526 bn and a supplemental of $118.5 bn. That’s less than 20% of total federal spending. No big savings can be made at the DOD if cutting the deficit is the goal. Indeed, as Rep. Allen West has rightly said, one could eliminate the entire DOD budget ($644.5 bn) entirely and still have a trillion-dollar annual budget deficit. By contrast, entitlements already consume a 63% annual share, are growing every year on autopilot, and have been growing that way ever since they were created. That is where the biggest savings can and must be found.

4) Deep defense cuts would deeply hurt the US economy.

As studies by the Center for Security Policy and the Providing For the Common Defense Coalition, and estimates by Sec. Panetta have confirmed, sequestration would mean the closures of hundreds of defense companies and defense industry facilities, and the resulting layoffs would increase the unemployment rate by a full percentage point. Deep defense cuts would mean huge layoffs of both troops and civilian employees, and cancellations of orders for thousands of weapons, resulting in the closures of hundreds of defense companies and their facilities, and further layoffs.

5) Defense cuts weaken the military and thus make America less safe.

No matter what defense spending critics will tell you, the fact is that defense cuts always weaken the US military, and that always makes America less safe, because America is safe only when the US military is strong enough to defend it. Defense cuts always weaken the military, because the defense budget is not a mere tranche of funding. Behind each number in the defense budget hide specific numbers of troops, units, bases, weapon programs, DOD agencies/commands, research projects, and troop compensation programs. Defense cuts mean fewer training hours, fewer weapons, fewer weapon programs, fewer troops, and fewer bases. In other words, they’re also bad because behind each defense budget number hides a weapon or a number of troops, and behind each defense spending cut hides a weapon arsenal or a weapon program cut.

6) Defense cuts produce zero savings in the long term.

As history has demonstrated, time after time, whenever the US cuts its own military, it eventually has to rebuild it (and fight wars caused by its military weakness) later down the road, at a much greater cost in money and American blood. It happened after WW1, when the US dramatically cut its own military and was totally unprepared for WW2 when it was drawn into it by Japan in 1941. It unilaterally disarmed itself after WW2, while Moscow did not, and had to quickly rebuild its military when the Korean War erupted and to fight this war at a high fiscal and human cost. It showed itself true again after the precipitous, reckless cuts that Pres. Eisenhower and Secretary Wilson made after the Korean War against the advice of the Air Force and Army Chiefs of Staff. It was proven again after post-Vietnam-War defense cuts totally gutted the military, thus emboldening the Soviet Union and making the world a much more dangerous place. These cuts forced President Reagan to rebuild the military at a much greater cost than it would’ve originally cost to just keep the military as strong as it was in 1969. And the same phenomenon played out after the Cold War, when the US first gutted it defense in the 1990s, then had to spend significant sums of money after 9/11 to rebuild its military.

7) The world is more dangerous than it has been since WW2.

The world is currently more dangerous, and engulfed in more wars, than at any time since 1945. Moreover, there are serious threats to America. China is almost as strong as the US. It has dozens of ICBMs, DF-21 IRBMs that can eliminate not only ground targets, but also satellites (as confirmed by America’s own generals) and USN ships (including carriers, vide the DF-21D variant). It has cyberweapons and an army of hackers that attack and disrupt US computer networks, and steal American secrets, on a daily basis. It has a larger Navy than the US does (in terms of the number of ships) and has an aircraft carrier. It’s now developing its own stealthy fifth generation fighterplane, the J-20 (some analysts say it will be a medium fighter-bomber), while the US is not producing any F-22s (their production line has been shut down) and orders for F-35s have been dramatically cut. China’s official defense budget for the next fiscal year is scheduled to be $106 bn, but Western analysts estimate it may be $260 bn.

Russia has reemerged as America’s military peer. It now plans to spend $770 bn over the next decade to modernize its arsenals of weapons, both strategic and conventional, and is aggressively modernizing its nuclear triad (and ordering 400 ICBMs), while the US nuclear triad and nuclear stockpile are atrophying through neglect and nonmodernization (not to mention American nuclear facilities, which date back to the days of the Manhattan Project). It also has by far the largest tank fleet in the world – over 20,000 tanks. And that is to say nothing of North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela!

8) The federal budget can be balanced without any defense spending cuts.

Despite claims that defense spending “has to be on the table” and has to be cut to balance the federal budget, the truth is that it can be balanced without any defense cuts whatsoever. The respective budget plans of the Republican Study Committee and the Heritage Foundation would balance the federal budget without any defense budget cuts within 10 fiscal years, while deeply cutting domestic spending and reforming entitlements. Of the 6 plans reviewed by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the HF’s plan would cut  federal spending, taxes, and debt most deeply, again, while not cutting defense spending at all.

9) The DOD has already contributed more than its fair share. It’s time for other departments to step up.

Defense was targeted by Obama for cuts on his first day as President. In 2009, he closed over 30 crucial weapon programs and laid off thousands of contractors. In 2010, he closed further weapon programs (including America’s only strategic airlifter production line) and signed the New START disarmament treaty. In 2011, his SECDEF, Robert Gates, had to find additional $178 bn in savings. And in August 2011, he signed the Budget Control Act, which calls on security-related agencies (read: the DOD) to cut their budgets by a further $487 bn over a decade. All other federal agencies have skated away with minor cuts or no cuts at all. Since Obama took office, the State Department’s budget has more than doubled.

10) Defense cuts embolden America’s enemies.

Whenever one side cuts its defenses, the opposite site becomes emboldened, as its prospects for successful blackmail and aggression become ever brighter. Vide free European countries and the United States which refused to arm themselves in the run-up to WW2, thus provoking aggression through their weakness. Vide also America’s lack of a Navy prior to 1798, which allowed Barbary Pirates to attack defenseless American merchant ships. Deep defense cuts would greatly increase the risk of, if not outright guarantee, aggression, as they always do.

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