As everyone knows, the Super Committee, composed of 12 political appointees, has failed to do its job of devising a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction package. As a consequence, an automatic spending sequester will kick in at the start of FY2013 (i.e. on Oct. 1st, 2012), and will cut $600 bn from the defense budget over the next 10 years on top of the $465 bn cuts already underway (as per the terms of the first part of the debt ceiling deal). In other words, as former deputy Assistant SECDEF Jed Babbin has rightly written, Washington has failed to do its job, and now Pentagon, as usual, will be the fall guy.
What to do now? And what can be expected to happen with the sequester now?
Contrary to the oft-repeated claims of defense cuts supporters (i.e. the opponents of a strong defense), Congressional Republicans are unlikely to even try, let alone to manage, to get these defense cuts reversed, even partially. Just consider their history of surrendering to Obama on defense. They voted for Obama’s defense cuts of 2009 and 2010. 13 GOP Senators voted for the New START treaty. Republicans voted for cutting $78 bn from the defense budget over the next 5 FYs in the name of “efficiencies”, for the April 2011 CR that cut defense spending in real terms, and for the debt ceiling deal that created this sequester in the first place. In other words, Republicans helped to create this diabolical sequester in the first place. How can anyone trust Republicans to stop defense cuts this time around?
And even if all Congressional Republicans present a united front and propose legislation to completely roll back these cuts, does anyone think it will pass? Remember: leftist Democrats, led by Harry Reid, a known opponent of a strong defense, still control the Senate, and will continue to control it until January 3rd, 2013. Does anyone really think they will vote for legislation sparing defense from the sequester, especially if it contains domestic spending cuts as alternative cuts? I don’t. Last but not least, there is President Obama, who promises to “veto any effort” to reverse the automatic cuts for defense, thus proving that he supports them and wants to gut the military.
So this Congress and this President will not stop nor reverse these automatic cuts. That’s not going to happen, despite the promises of people like Larry Kudlow and James Capretta, and the claims of ignorant leftist hacks like Spencer Ackerman, who thinks these cuts will inevitably be nixed.
What about the next Congress and the next President?
They will be sworn in too late to be able to stop these cuts: on January 3rd and January 20th, 2013, respectively.
Still, won’t they reverse these cuts once they take office?
The answer is that it’s unlikely to happen. 4 out of 9 GOP presidential candidates (Paul, Johnson, Huntsman, and Bachmann) support deep defense spending cuts. Herman Cain says he will order every department to cut its budget by 10%, and then by another 10%, if he’s elected President. Rick Perry’s views on this subject are not known yet (as of 14:32 Eastern Time). So that leaves us with only Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich as candidates who oppose defense cuts. Of these guys, only Romney stands a chance of beating Obama.
As for the next Congress, even assuming that it will be Republican-controlled (which is a big if), you can bet that once these defense cuts are administered, the Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) will fight like two alpha male cats in a bag against any efforts to reverse these defense cuts.
So it’s unlikely that these defense cuts will ever be reversed – partially or entirely – by either the current Congress and current President or their successors.
But if Congressional Republicans and GOP presidential candidates are REALLY willing to reverse these defense cuts, this sequester, as disastrous as it will be, will create a great opportunity for them to expose Obama for whom he really is: a viciously anti-American defense-gutter who is zealously gutting America’s defense to protect his socialist domestic programs (both payoffs to Solyndra and entitlements) from serious cuts. It will also be a great opportunity to prove once and for all that the Democrats are the party of a weak defense, a party that cannot, under any circumstances, be trusted on nat-sec-issues, and to propose a plan to rebuild the US military and to reassure American allies. This way, the GOP and its Presidential nominee will be able to distinguish themselves.
As Foreign Policy Initiative Executive Director James M. Fly rightly wrote recently:
“If the Republican party goes the way of Rand Paul and FreedomWorks, a Republican president won’t see the inside of the Oval Office for some time to come. A recent Politico/George Washington University Battleground poll showed that 83 percent of voters were concerned about significant defense cuts. (…)
The presidential candidates have been given an opening to make national security an issue in the 2012 election. It is now up to them to accept the challenge.”