Defense spending did not cause America’s fiscal problems. Cutting it won’t solve them.

That is exactly what I (along with a few other people such as Heritage Foundation analysts) have been saying for a long time; last month the top ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee joined us; and recently, we’ve also been joined by the most important ally we could have: the nominee for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, US Army.

A battle-hardened combat veteran who deployed to Iraq on multiple tours, General Dempsey is no “general who is trying to protect his toys”, as American generals are frequently described by the media, by libertarians, and by liberals. He’s an officer concerned about his country and its future.

Just a few days ago, during his confirmation hearing, he warned that further defense cuts would impair America’s military capabilities, and massive defense cuts – such as the $886 billion cuts demanded by President Obama and Senate Democrats – would dramatically weaken the US military and radically increase risks for the United States. Here’s a quote from The Hill regarding what General Dempsey said:

“Cutting defense by nearly $1 trillion to reduce the deficit would be harmful to America’s national security, according to Gen. Martin Dempsey, President Obama’s nominee for top military officer.

Dempsey broke with the man he would replace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, and on Tuesday offered senators a different assessment of the nation’s top threat.

“I wouldn’t describe our economic condition as the single biggest threat to national security,” Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There are a lot of clear and present threats to our security in the current operational environment. … National security [spending] didn’t cause the debt crisis, nor will [reducing – ZM] it solve it.”

Mullen has for months made clear his belief that “our national debt is our biggest national security problem.” His position has been cited by Republicans eager to slice federal government spending, as well as by Democrats who want big cuts to the Pentagon.

Dempsey acknowledged that “the national debt is a grave concern,” but cautioned against large defense cuts to help fix Washington’s balance sheet.

“Our national power is the aggregate of our diplomatic, military and economic influence,” Dempsey said. “We have to address our economic stature, but that doesn’t mean we can neglect the other instruments of national power.”

Dempsey’s warnings about defense cuts larger than Obama’s $400 billion were echoed later Tuesday by the vice chiefs of the military services. Several of them told the House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee that their services need more — not less — annual funding.”

General Dempsey is right. Defense spending did NOT cause America’s fiscal problems, and cutting it will not solve them.

Defense spending has grown by only 47% in real terms over the last decade, from $377 bn (in today’s money) in FY2001 to $513 bn today. (GWOT spending added another $160 bn in FY2011). In FY2000, it accounted for a full 15% of federal spending; now it accounts for 14.31%. In FY2001, it amounted to 3.0% of GDP; now it amounts to 3.5%. (The proposed FY2012 defense budget would increase that amount slightly, to 3.78%, assuming no cuts are made to it.)

Since FY2001, total federal spending has doubled, from $1.85 trillion per year to $3.7 trillion per annum, but defense has received only ca. 8% of that spending splurge. The rest was added to the GWOT accounts and to civilian spending accounts.

Federal spending has been growing year after year nonstop, as has discretionary civilian spending, while the DOD had to cut its budget in 2005, 2009, 2010 and this year. Since FY2009, defense spending has been reduced from $550 bn (in today’s money) to $513 billion. In FY2009 alone, over 30 weapon programs were closed. Several further were closed this fiscal year, and the DOD has proposed closing several further ones. Since Obama has taken office, defense spending (along with projections for future defense budget plans) has been cut by $439 billion during just 2.5 years.

At the same time, civilian spending – discretionary and nondiscretionary alike – has skyrocketed, and within, budget deficits and the public debt. So defense spending cuts have utterly failed to reduce the deficit.

Now several groups, as well as President Obama, are demanding even deeper defense cuts. Gordon Adams, one of the architects of the disastrous Clinton defense cuts, wants to reduce defense spending by $800 bn over a decade. Obama, the Gang of Six, and Senate Democrats demand cuts to the tune of $886 bn/decade. Tom Coburn demands $1.006 trillion’s worth of defense cuts. The Soros-funded CAP demands cuts to the tune of $1 trillion.

This must be prevented at any cost. Cutting defense spending by those huge amounts, or any amounts similar to them, would utterly gut the military and invite aggressors to attack America. It would render the military totally impotent. It must not be allowed to happen under any circumstances. General Dempsey, as well as the four Service Vice Chiefs, have stated this before the Congress, under oath. Several distinguished defense issues experts, including the HASC Chairman, four HASC members (including two Subcommittee Chairmen), former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former DOD Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim, and defense affairs analyst Max Boot, have stated the same.

That’s because it’s the truth. The US military is already struggling to fight three wars and defend America with an inadequate budget. All four Services are suffering serious readiness shortages, and are using obsolete, unsurvivable, expensive-to-maintain military equipment that is nearing the end of its service lifetime and needs to be replaced. Cutting defense spending further – let alone as deeply as Obama and the Senate Democrats have suggested – would totally wreck the military. We’re not talking about chump changes; we’re talking about cuts of the magnitude of $886 bn over a decade, i.e. $88.6 bn per year!

That’s why any further defense cuts must be prevented at any cost.


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