On June 9th, Leon Panetta testified during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense. He kept most of his cards closed. He gave only generalistic answers to most of the questions asked, unless they pertain to terrorist organizations and intel data, but nonetheless some of the statements made by him and by others are worth restating (quoting) here.
When asked by Sen. John Cornyn about whether defense spending is the cause of America’s fiscal crisis, Leon Panetta said that he does not believe that defense spending is, by any means, a cause of „the huge deficits that we’re incurring today” and that he agrees with Robert Gates that, no matter how big the defense budget might be, it is not the cause of America’s fiscal woes. Sen. Cornyn apparently agreed with that. Nonetheless, Cornyn said that “some cuts will have to be made to the defense budget, but I hope we’re not going to whack the defense budget and give ourselves a new “peace dividend”, and that Americas are frustrated that the DOD cannot produce auditible financial statements and has not yet become audit-ready (although the USMC is already audit-ready or at least has made big progress in that regard). (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onYI8WiiTe4)
The Senators universally praised him and some of them promised to vote for him. As HumanEvents noted shortly after the hearing:
“Although several members of Code Pink and other war protesters showed up holding antiwar signs prior to the hearing, they settled down before Panetta took his seat, and the entire event was rather low-key.
Members didn’t put him on the hot seat, it was more of a love seat—from his role in hunting down Osama bin Laden to his experience as a former congressman.
Panetta, 72, bantered back and forth with Democrats and Republicans for four hours before the panel adjourned to executive session to question him privately.
If the public reception by the Armed Services Committee is any indicator, Panetta’s nomination as secretary of the Defense Department will sail through Senate confirmation before July 1 with little opposition.
“I can’t wait to vote for your confirmation,” said Richard Blumenthal, (D.-Conn.).
“The President has put together an A+ national security team,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-N.C.). “I can’t wait to vote for you.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) kept his opening remarks brief, but allowed that he too will support Panetta’s confirmation.”
The URL: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=44066
During his confirmation hearing, Panetta said some things that I agree with, and some things that I disagree with.
I agree with him that “we are not free if we are not secure”, as his father told him. I agree with him that, as he said earlier, defense spending is not a cause of America’s fiscal woes. I agree with him that the American people do not need to choose between a fiscally disciplined federal government and a strong national defense.
He was right to say that “There has been no shortage of war. Our forces are stretched by combat that has lasted nearly a decade.”
He was right to say: “If confirmed, my No. 1 job will be to ensure America continues to have the best-trained, best-equipped and strongest military in the world, in order to make sure we can protect our country.”
But I vehemently disagree with him on the point that “budget cuts will be tough, but necessary.” They are not necessary. America does not need, and should not, cut defense spending. The budget can, should, and must be balanced without defense spending cuts. Defense spending accounts for less than 15% of the total federal budget and a tiny 3.50% of GDP. It does not need to be cut. The only way to tackle the huege annual federal budget deficit is to cut the costs of entitlements.
Some Senators also said some stupid things during that hearing. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the SASC’s chairman, said that defense spending has to be cut as a matter of political and financial principle and that the cuts will have to be large. He’s wrong. America does not need, and should not, cut defense spending. The budget can, should, and must be balanced without defense spending cuts. Defense spending accounts for less than 15% of the total federal budget and a tiny 3.50% of GDP. It does not need to be cut. The only way to tackle the huege annual federal budget deficit is to cut the costs of entitlements. As for political and financial principle – it is politically, constitutionally, financially, and militaqrily wrong to treat defense spending as just another kind of spending. Defense spending is devoted to the federal government’s #1 constitutional duty: defense. the Constitution emphasies it like no other role of the federal governmnment. And, as Panetta’s father has said, Americans will not be free if they won’t be safe.
Unfortunately, Sen. McCain also claimed that “defense spending will have to be cut”, although he warned against making arbitrary or large defense spending cuts.
Sen. McCain has also slammed DOD acquisition programs and called for the closure of every DOD acquisition program that is even slightly behind schedule or over-budget. THat’s ridiculous, and this would mean unilaterally disarming the US military by closing the vast majority of DOD weapon programs. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that McCain had called for such stupid policies – his 2008 presidential campaign was the first time.
The SOros-funded , extremey liberal pseudo-think-tank “ThinkProgress” lambasted Panetta for correctly saying that defense budgets are not causing budget deficits and claimed that America’s defense budget is “huge”. They’re lying (and that’s what they’re paid to do). The FY2010 defense budget ($534 bn in CY2009 dollars, $550 bn in CY2011 dollars) amounted to just 14.87% of the total FY2010 federal budget and a paltry 3.65% of GDP. The FY2011 defense budget ($530 bn) amounts to less than 15% of the total federal budget and a paltry 3.50% of GDP. The proposed FY2012 defense budget, if approved, would amount to less than 15% of the total federal budget and a tiny 3.78% of GDP. So no, the defense budget is not huge, and Panetta was right to say that defense spending is not to blame for America’s fiscal woes.