Haley Barbour betrays conservatism, attacks defense spending

Politico is reporting that Haley Barbour is putting some distance between himself and leading rivals on both defense spending and the war in Afghanistan. Speaking in Iowa, the Mississippi governor said: “Anybody who says you can’t save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon. We can save money on defense and if we Republicans don’t propose saving money on defense, we’ll have no credibility on anything else.”

The URLs: http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0311/Barbour_breaks_with_rivals_on_Afghanistan_defense_spending.html; http://spectator.org/blog/2011/03/16/barbour-on-afghanistan-and-def

This is utter gibberish.

This is

another ridiculous comment by yet another ignorant politician. Firstly, no one is claiming that you can’t “save money” in the Pentagon – the DOD’s leaders themselves have proposed to save taxpayers $178 bn over the next 5 FYs, and myself, I’ve proposed non-weapon-savings totalling over $63 bn per FY (the newest edition of my Defense Reform Proposals Package will be published later this week). So Barbour’s comment is a straw man argument.

But make no mistake: America cannot afford to reduce its TOTAL defense budget as a whole (I’m talking about the core defense budget; the Afghan war is a different matter). Defense spending in total is already inadequate (it totals 3.59% of GDP at present), as is the DOD’s modernization spending (i.e. spending on modernizing existing equipment and on the purchases of new equipment). That is a FACT. Thus, as the Heritage Foundation, ret. LTCOL Allen West (now Congressman West), former SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld, and myself have recommended, any savings at the DOD (and many such savings can be made) must be REINVESTED in the DOD. Anything less amounts to idiotic, maths-driven defense cuts and is unacceptable.

Cutting the topline of the defense budget is a convenient, easy way for politicians (including RINOs like Barbour and Daniels) to avoid serious reductions of domestic (discretionary and obligatory) spending, including entitlement programs. The truth is the opposite of what Barbour says: if you want to save serious money on defense, you’re not credible on cutting any other kind of spending and you’re not a fiscal conservative.

By the by, cutting defense spending would be an incredibly stupid way of “saving” money. Such a policy would save little money in the short term, and ZERO money in the long term. Defense cuts would weaken America’s defense (as they are designed to do), thus emboldening bullies and aggressors to bully, or even attack, America or its key allies. And then, the US would have only two choices: to rearm and fight a war invited by defense cuts at a high fiscal and human cost, or do nothing and tolerate aggression and blackmail. Both of these options would be much costlier, in the long term, than providing the requisite funding for defense now and during future fiscal years.

Last but not least, Barbour’s comment suggests that Republicans have not cut defense spending yet – which is a blatant lie. The current CR, passed in December 2010, cut defense spending (compared to FY2010 levels) by $27 bn, from $542 bn to $525 bn; the newest long-term CR designed by Republicans to fund the government until Oct. 1st, 2011, would cut defense spending even further, to $516 bn, and the Dems’ alternative CR would cut it even further, to $513 bn. So the Congress has already significantly reduced defense spending. And, as reported by DOD leaders during Congressional testimonies, these defense cuts have seriously harmed the military, thus disproving the lie that America can afford to cut the defense spending topline and not weaken its military.

The one thing that I do agree with Barbour on is Afghanistan. He said:

“What is our mission? How many Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. … Is that a 100,000-man Army mission?” Barbour continued, “I don’t think our mission should be to think we’re going to make Afghanistan an Ireland or an Italy.”

But the core defense budget must not be reduced.


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