The American Thinker and the Associated Press are warning that Panetta’s nomination may mean even deeper defense cuts than what Obama has already proposed (400 bn over the next 12 FYs).
On the other hand, one CSBA analyst quoted by the AP says that Panetta might actually be an asset, not an enemy, for the DOD, because of his experience as House Budget Cmte. Chairman, as OMB Director, and as WH Chief of Staff, his negotiating skills (he was involved in both the 1990 budget talks and the 1996 budget talks), and his connections (he knows people in the OMB and in the WH).
Similarly, Nick Schwellenbach of the Project of Government Oversight claims that Panetta “will go to the mat for them” (the DOD) when it comes to budgetary battles. Says the “Danger Room” blog:
“Nick Shwellenbach, director of investigations for the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, says a “huge pro” for Panetta is his OMB tenure. “He’s relatively well-equipped to fight the titantic defense budget battles to come. Plus, he’s got the confidence of the President,” Schwellenbach says. “His track record at CIA should inspire some confidence at DOD that he’ll go to the mat for them.” Lose the confidence of one constituency or the other, and he’ll face “increasingly unmanageable problems” in the Pentagon and Congress.”
Perhaps. But it depends on what Panetta’s personal opinions are and how he will use his skills. If he sincerely believes that the DOD cannot afford further significant budget cuts, maybe he will use his negotiation skills to convince Obama and the Congress to limit defense cuts and not to cut defense spending by any significant margins. On the other hand, if he believes the defense budget is too big, or if he intends to be a mere lapdog of President Obama, the defense budget will be severely reduced – unless Republicans act courageously to STOP ANY FURTHER DEFENSE CUTS, as they should.
It’s important to note that those who want to cut the defense budget don’t really care about the budget deficit. They couldn’t care less about it. They don’t want to balance the budget, they just want to gut the military and redirect money towards socialist domestic programs (entitlements, welfare programs, highways that states don’t even want, etc.). They’ve never cared about the budget deficit; otherwise, they would’ve never defended domestic programs from budget cuts.
Those who are after the defense budget have been after it for a long time. The current budget crisis is merely a pretext for them.
If Panetta wants to use his skills for a good cause – to protect the defense budget from further cuts, he should make that point, and also the 6 points stated here:
He should also remind the Congress, the President, and the public that:
1) Defense spending has already been significantly reduced, by $37 bn, from $550 bn in FY2010 to $513.1 bn this FY, i.e. from a barely-adequate overall level to a totally inadequate level. As testified under oath by Sec. Gates and JCS Chairman Admiral Mullen, this cut has already done significant harm to the military.
2) Defense spending (not including spending on Iraq and the Afghan war, which have NOTHING to do with America’s defense) is at its lowest ebb since FY1948 (excluding the last Clinton years) – 3.50% of America’s GDP ($14.620 trillion today, according to the IMF). It’s TOO LOW to fund America’s legitimate defense needs (not appettites, but legitimate defense needs).
3) Even despite the current budget crisis – the gravest America has witnessed since 1945, when America’s public debt stood at 125% of GDP – America CAN afford to spend $553 bn per year, and even more than that, on defense – if defense is prioritized (as it should be, according to the Constitution, the wishes of the Founding Fathers, and common sense) and socialist domestic programs are abolished or at least significantly reduced, and if all unconstitutional programs are abolished. Of course, these will have to be abolished or at least significantly reduced regardless of whether the defense budget is cut or not – because this is the only way the federal budget can be balanced.
4) Defense cuts, no matter how large, would not balance the federal budget nor even significantly reduce the annual budget deficit. The FY2011 budget deficit is $1.65 trillion; the core defense budget for FY2011 is $513 bn and even the entire military budget for FY2011 is $673 bn, which means that even if the DOD was abolished entirely, there would’ve still been an almost $1 trillion dollar annual budget deficit.
5) That defense cuts at this particular time would be particularly foolish, given the numerous, strong enemies the US is facing right now: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. The London-based Intl Institute for Strategic Studies released a warning not to cut defense spending to Western democracies earlier this month:
6) That although defense corporations do profit from the annual defense budget, this fact is totally irrelevant, because:
a) it misses the point. The purpose of a defense budget is to provide for a strong defense, including to develop and purchase the weapons the military needs. Someone has to produce them, and someone has to earn money for them. The role of the federal government is not to starve the defense industry nor to subsidize it, but rather to buy whatever weapons the military needs.
b) someone profits from ANY government contract, whether it’s issued by the DOD or any other government agency. It’s just a question who exactly benefits. When the DOE, the DOT, or the DHS issues a contract for something, some companies profit from it. The American industry is almost completely privately-owned, so regardless what government agency buys what and issues a contract to whom, some company profits from it.
7) That a majority of Americans oppose defense cuts, so the Congress should heed the wishes of the public, which elected both houses of Congress. (http://www.businessinsider.com/poll-reveals-americans-are-still-in-deep-denial-about-the-deficit-2011-4; http://yhoo.it/gdjSal)
If Panetta is really willing to “go to the mat” for the DOD when it comes to budget battles, he’ll be more than welcome. If he will fight for (or negotiate) adequate defense budgets, he’ll be a significantly better Secretary of Defense than Robert Gates. If, on the other hand, he slavishly accepts Obama’s defense cuts, he’ll prove himself to be even worse than Gates, which is very hard, but not impossible, to accomplish.