I’ve been so busy that I missed the February edition of the Air Force Magazine, and the editorial published in that edition. Written by the AFM’s current editor, Adam J. Hebert, it is a veritable litany of lies designed to mask and defend Obama’s deep defense cuts. It also nicely shows how badly the AFM has been transformed from a staunchly pro-defense, and especially pro-Air-Force and pro-airpower magazine, written by Airmen for Airmen (and for everyone concerned about defense issues) into just another propaganda paper defending and rationalizing Obama’s defense cuts.
Firstly, Hebert falsely claims that the Obama Administration is “prioritizing” capabilities needed to prevail in the Pacific, against the most likely enemies the US will face (China and North Korea), and is thus making a strategic “pivot” to the Pacific and the Middle East, away from Europe:
“The Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East will be prioritized, as they should be. (…) Planning for China, Iran, North Korea, and such was derided as “next-war-itis” during a decade of land war domination. These threats will now get the attention they deserve. Meanwhile, commitment to the Asia-Pacific, Middle Eastern, and European regions will reinforce American leadership where it matters most and protect vital economic and military ties. (…) The US is not stepping back from its leadership position, but from secondary priorities. Most observers feel China is the nation most likely to challenge US hegemony, and this plan moves the US more securely into the Pacific—China’s neighborhood. (…) This document shifts the nation away from the sorts of grinding ground wars that minimized US advantages. It is a rational assessment of where America’s future dangers and opportunities lie.”
If only that were true! However, it is not. The reality is that Obama’s defense budget plans, if implemented, would deeply cut the already-inadequate capabilities crucial in the Pacific and the Middie East: surface combatants, Naval Aviation, fighter fleets, amphibious ships, Joint High Speed Vessels (small amphibious ships used to deliver troops and combat vehicles ashore), the bomber fleet, airlifters (including 27 large C-5 airlifters and 65 tactical C-130 airlifter fleet workhorses, as well as cutting orders for newer C-130J models); missile defense; nuclear modernization; directed energy weapons; cruise missile countermeasures; submarines; many USAF and USN R&D programs; and other capabilities needed in these two predominantly naval and aerial theaters (the Pacific and the Middle East). Defense expert Mackenzie Eaglen writes about these capabilities cuts, and their implications, in more detail here. As her analysis proves, the biggest losers under Obama’s budget will be the Navy and the USAF, despite being the services primarily responsible for securing the Pacific and the Persian Gulf.
If the goal is to “move securely into the Pacific”, defend US interests there, and counter China, then cutting the cruiser and amphibious ship fleets, cutting the shipbuilding plan by dozens of ships, keeping the Navy’s ship fleet at a pathetically small size of just 283 ships (the smallest since 1916), cutting orders for F-35 fighters and the number of fighter squadrons, cutting the bomber fleet (and investments in modernizing it), and retiring over 100 airlift aircraft (including 27 C-5 strategic airlifters) is the worst way to do it.
Adam Hebert is showing just how ignorant he is about these issues. He thinks that the best way to address the Chinese threat, “move securely into the Pacific”, and defend US interests there and in the Middle East is to cut the defense budget as deeply as Obama hopes to and to deeply cut ship, fighter, bomber, and airlifter fleets, even though they are already at their smallest sizes in decades. Yeah, great idea, Mr Hebert!
Apparently, Hebert thinks that these deep cuts of the military’s airlifter, fighter, bomber, and ship fleets is proof of “the attention [the threats in the Pacific and in the ME] deserve”.
The fact is that as Mackenzie Eaglen, Chairman Buck McKeon (who is the #1 target of Hebert’s February diatribe), Chairman Randy Forbes, myself, and others have pointed out, the “pivot” to Asia is on paper only and is directly contradicted by these deep capability cuts that Obama’s defense budgets call for.
In fact, as much as I opposed, and still oppose, Rumsfeld’s and Gates’s cuts of the Air Force and the Navy (against which the Air Force magazine repeatedly editorialized), and against their contention that most (or all) future wars will be waged on ground in the Middle East against insurgents and terrorist, I have to admit that their cuts, budgets, and budget priorities at least reflected this contention and were its result. They were logical. They were based on a strategy, a basic (albeit wrong in its prediction) theory of future warfare. This strategy was clear: they thought that all future wars would be ground wars against insurgencies, and they ploughed money in programs related to such wars.
Obama’s defense budgets are totally different. They aren’t informed by any strategy; they DRIVE DOD pseudo-strategies that serve only to rationalize these budgets and the cuts contained therein. They directly contradict Obama’s stated strategy of prioritizing naval and air capabilities and pivoting to the Pacific and the Middle East.
In short, Obama is whispering sweet nothings into Americans’ ears, but the reality is that he’s gutting the Air Force and the Navy. That being the case, Hebert’s contention that “the new strategic guidance helps ensure the United States will remain that leader [i.e. the world's leader]” is downright laughable.
And when Hebert wrote “The US is not stepping back from its leadership position, but from secondary priorities”, I suppose that by “secondary priorities” he meant cruisers, amphibious assault vehicles and ships, JHSVs, shipbuilding, airlift aircraft (strategic and tactical), nuclear deterrence, bombers, directed energy weapons, and fighters. Because those are the the biggest targets of the cuts in Obama’s FY2013 defense budget proposal.
Also, Hebert, like many opponents of a strong defense, falsely claims that Obama plans to only cut defense spending’s rate of growth. Here’s what he says:
“With DOD’s budget expected to increase only at the rate of inflation, there will have to be cuts. (…) The so-called retreat is actually an overdue reallocation of forces, divestment is an interesting word choice for a plan to hold Pentagon spending roughly level, including inflation, over the next 10 years (…) In reality, there are no massive cuts, only reductions relative to long-range spending plans.”
Those claims are blatant lies. The plan DOES cut the defense budget SIGNIFICANTLY in real terms, as shown by the graph below, produced by the CBO, and as shown by the second graph below, produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which shows defense spending declining as a percentage of GDP to below pre-Pearl-Harbor levels under Obama’s plan. If it’s enacted, defense spending will be cut significantly in real terms and will not return to its FY2011 level until FY2019 (i.e. until then, it will stay below that level). That is of course to say nothing of the sequester, which, if it proceeds, will cut another $600 bn from defense budgets of the next decade, cutting defense spending even more deeply (down to $491 bn in FY2013 and even more deeply thereafter) and thus gutting the military. Hebert himself acknowledges the sequester, but he understates its impact (he claims it will only be $500 bn over a decade) and doesn’t believe it will really happen or that it will damage the military. In any case, his claim that Obama’s plan would only cut defense spending’s rate of growth is patently false. It would make significant real-term defense spending cuts. And these cuts would be coming ON TOP OF all the defense cuts that President Obama has already administered (some of which have been reported in detail in previous AFM editions), including the closure of the F-22, AC-X, C-17, Airborne Laser, MKV, KEI, CSAR-X, Zumwalt class (DDX), and CGX programs. In other words, defense, having already suffered serious cuts, would now see even deeper ones, mostly in the procurement, R&D, and O&M accounts.
Likewise, Hebert’s claim that “The so-called retreat is actually an overdue reallocation of forces” is a blatant lie. This is not a reallocation of troops and units; this is a dramatic cut of troops, units, and weapons across the board. As a result, there will be far fewer of them to allocate anywhere, even to the Pacific. Furthermore, recent reports indicate that Obama plans to deeply cut the number of US troops in South Korea and Japan – two strategically important countries in the, surprise, surprise, Asia-Pacific region.
Hebert also falsely claims that ”The guidance defends America’s leadership in organizations such as NATO and acknowledges that spending must be restrained, in a calculated effort to reduce debt and rebuild the nation’s economic strength.” This is gibberish. This is no effort at all to reduce the debt and rebuild America’s economic strength. If Obama really wanted to do so, he would’ve tackled the REAL drivers of America’s debt – entitlements and nondefense discretionary spending – and would’ve removed government obstacles to economic growth (the income tax, drilling bans, pro-union laws and agencies such as the Davis-Bacon Act and the NLRB, etc.). Cutting defense spending will NOT seriously reduce public debt nor rebuild America’s economic strength; it will actually undermine it by hurting the defense industry.
Unfortunately, despite all of Obama’s defense cuts, he has significantly increased the federal debt and the annual budget deficit, and he plans to bury America under an even deeper mountain of debt, as evidenced here.
No, Obama’s goal is not to reduce the deficit and the debt. He couldn’t care less about them. His goal is actually to cut defense spending deeply and transfer that money to his beloved socialist domestic programs.
And as the budget plans proposed by the Heritage Foundation, the RSC, and Congressman Paul Ryan have shown, it is possible to balance the budget without cutting defense spending at all. (Of the 6 plans reviewed by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the HF’s plan cuts federal spending, taxes, and debt most deeply.)
Hebert points out that Chairman McKeon voted for the 2011 debt ceiling deal. That is a valid criticism towards him, but not towards me, because I have always opposed that misbegotten deal and still oppose it. I wanted Congress to prioritize federal revenue to pay for its essential obligations, including paying the military and SS check beneficients, and eliminating any federal spending for which there isn’t enough revenue.
Hebert writes that “We might quibble on whether any eight-page planning guide can clearly articulate a full scope of threats, but the document does a commendable job of succinctly laying out the priorities and refocusing military effort.” But although the strategy does rhetorically prioritize the Navy, the Air Force, and the Pacific Rim, it (and the Obama defense budget it was rigged to fit) cut the Navy and the Air Force dramatically.
Rejecting McKeon’s truism that
“An honest and valid strategy for national defense can’t be founded on the premise that we must do more with less, or even less with less. Rather, you proceed from a clear articulation of the full scope of the threats you face and the commitments you have. You then resource a strategy required to defeat those threats decisively.”
Hebert falsely claims that
“We live in a world in which money, time, personnel, patience, and capabilities are all limited. This has always been the case. The US had struggles and resource limitations in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”
While we do live in a world in which these resources are finite, the strategy (and the budget it was rigged to fit) limit them TOO SEVERELY. That is the problem with them. They cut defense spending (and with it, the force structure, modernization programs, nuclear deterrence, OnM programs, and other vital projects) TOO DEEPLY. And Hebert fails to mention that during WW1, WW2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and most of the Cold War, the US military had far more resources at its disposal and America’s defense spending was far higher than it is now, let alone what it will be if Obama’s newest round of defense cuts is enacted. Moreover, resource limitations and America’s fiscal troubles are no excuses for defense cuts. Moreover, it is possible to balance the federal budget and pay down America’s debt without cutting defense spending at all, as the Republican Study Committee, the Heritage Foundation, and Congressman Paul Ryan have all shown with their budget plans.
Hebert also falsely claims that:
“This document shifts the nation away from the sorts of grinding ground wars that minimized US advantages. It is a rational assessment of where America’s future dangers and opportunities lie. Regarding a hollow force, the document states, “We will resist the temptation to sacrifice readiness in order to retain force structure and will in fact rebuild readiness in areas … de-emphasized over the past decade.” Importantly, it makes “reversibility” a key tenet, by protecting military structures and industrial capabilities needed to quickly rebuild the military’s size if necessary.”
That is utter garbage. The document is a laughable propaganda screed designed solely to fool the public and mask Obama’s newest round of defense cuts as a rational reallocation of resources, when it is actually a deep cut of overall resources, and it does nothing to shift focus to naval and air capabilities and maximize America’s advantages in these – it actually calls for deep cuts to these capabilities. Furthermore, the Obama defense budget calls for deep cuts in modernization programs, including nuclear modernization, aircraft production, and shipbuilding. As for “reversibility” – don’t make me laugh. Defense cuts, especially as deep as those that Obama proposes, are always hard, and someitmes impossible, to reverse. A shipyard, if forced to close due to insufficient orders for ships, will not wait to reopen when the USN is finally ready to start buying more ships again. Cuts to military structures, weapon orders, and industrial capabilities are usually IRREVERSIBLE.
Hebert lies that “McKeon is to be commended for his commitment to US security and our armed forces, but clinging to obsolete strategies and spending goals will do more long-term harm than good.” Actually, the one clinging to obsolete strategies and spending goals here is Hebert, not McKeon. Hebert, like other liberals, believes that defense on the cheap is possible and that cutting the force structure doesn’t matter because numbers doesn’t matter. That is manifestly not true.
Hebert calls on Obama to enact these disastrous defense cuts: “To bring this plan to fruition, the Administration must now follow through, beginning with the 2013 budget request.”
The Obama Admin’s defense cuts must be entirely rejected – for the sake of the Air Force, the entire military, and the country.
It’s sad that a once-great magazine such as the AF Magazine has degenerated so badly that it has become yet another propaganda publication supporting Obama’s disastrous defense cuts. Sadly, that is what it has become today with Hebert as its Chief Editor. That being the case, I will disregard what it writes, and will read it far less frequently than I already do.