Today, on Thursday, May 10th, 2012, and Ryan’s Sequester Replacement Act will come to the floor for a vote. The measure is designed to stop the sequestration of defense spending (which would automatically, without any Congressional action, cut $600 bn out of the core defense budget over 10 years, i.e. $60 bn every year, on tp of the $487 bn in cuts ordered by the first tier of the debt ceiling deal) and thus the gutting of America’s defense, and to replace the sequester with domestic spending cuts ($240 bn in the first year alone).
The sequester, if it goes through, will completely gut America’s defense. It will deeply cut its budget – in a uniform, piecemeal, across-the-board manner – deeply cutting everything, the waste along with crucial defense programs. As a consequence, the entire ICBM leg of the nuclear triad would have to be eliminated immediately (and the other two legs as well, over time, through nonreplacement, because their replacement programs would have to be cancelled); the F-35 program and all but the most basic upgrades for legacy fighters would have to be cancelled; the fighter fleet would have to be cut by 35% and the bomber fleet by 2/3s while the Navy would be cut to just 230 ships, and become smaller than the Russian Navy, not to mention the PLAN. Missile defense and shipbuilding programs would be cancelled across the board, the Army would be cut to its 1930s’ size and the Marines to just 145,000 men; the AF and the Navy would also shed thousands of troops; and their pay and benefits would have to be drastically cut.
Under sequestration, on top of all defense cuts already made or scheduled to date, defense spending would be cut in real terms by $60 bn per year, down to $491 bn in FY2013, and in real terms, it would not return to its FY2011 level until FY2019 at the earliest, assuming that the Congress doesn’t cut defense further (see the CBO graph below). This also nicely debunks the frequently-made claim that sequestration would only cut the rate of defense spending growth. Meanwhile, entitlements would not be cut at all (except a tiny Medicare cut) and domestic discretionary spending cuts would be spread so thin they’d be light. Defense, which accounts for just 19% of total federal spending, would bear 50% of the spending cuts burden, after already contributing $920 bn in deficit reduction since 2009.
Knowing it would be a disaster, a huge injustice, and a dereliction of the duty to provide for a strong defense, Paul Ryan has introduced the Sequester Replacement Act, which spares defense from sequestration and cuts domestic spending – and even more deeply than sequestration would cut defense spending. In so doing, he has shown himself to be a far competent and dedicated leader on defense issues than President Obama, Secretary Panetta, or Senator Reid.
And a House floor vote for it will put everyone on the record on the question of providing for the common defense, with no wiggle room or excuses for anyone.
Everyone who votes on it will be finally put on the record and show his/her true face: whether he/she supports a strong defense or wants to gut it.
No one will be able to claim the lame “I support a strong defense, but I also want to cut the budget deficit” excuse. This is not defense conservatism vs fiscal conservatism. The Sequester Replacement Act would save taxpayers 2.4 times MORE money than the sequester ever would, and 4 times more money than sequestration of defense spending ($240 bn pa vs $60 bn pa). And, just like sequestration, the Act’s cuts would be guaranteed to happen (starting on Oct. 1st) by law if it is passed and signed.
If deficit reduction is the goal, the Sequester Replacement Act will fare better in that regard than the sequester would.
Nor will anyone be able to vote to gut defense and still claim that he/she is a conservative. Supporting a strong defense, and thus, protecting it from deep cuts, is an irremovable part of conservative philosophy and a requirement for anyone who wants to credibly call himself a conservative. Moreover, as the Founding Fathers said, national defense is the #1 duty of any statesman, and “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of keeping the peace.”
And no one willl be able to claim they support a strong defense but they don’t want defense to be exempted from cuts. The DOD has never been exempted from budget cuts; it was singled out for them by Obama on his first day as President. Since 2009, it has already contributed $920 bn in deficit reduction through several rounds of defense cuts. All that Ryan and like-minded conservatives are trying to accomplish is to save defense from excessively and extremely deep budget cuts.
Let me be clear: there is some waste in the defense budget, and I am not defending it; I support rooting it out. But there is far less of it than defense’s opponents claim, and certainly not as much as $100 bn per year. Moreover, any wasteful DOD programs need to be eliminated carefully in a targeted manner, specifically, one by one, and not used as excuses for deep, crippling defense budget cuts.
And anyone who claims there is as much as $100 bn per year worth of waste in defense spending needs to be forced to say what exact programs he claims are waste, list them all, prove that they cost $100 bn per year, and say why he thinks they are “wasteful” and how would he defend the Nation without them. The burden of proof is on the claimant.
When the House votes on the bill, I will post the roll call vote results here.