Garbage about defense spending and modernization by Michael O’Hanlon and Duncan Currie

William Buckley’s nephew Brent Bozell has remarked that his uncle, if he were alive today, would’ve been ashamed of what the National Review has become.

He’s right. The NR is no longer a conservative magazine. Today, it’s a mere rag for anyone who claims to be a right-winger or a conservative to publish his/her screed, no matter how factually wrong, how poorly researched, and how un-conservative it is.

On Friday, December 23rd, the NRO published yet another garbage article that NRO editors didn’t even bother reviewing.

The author, who obviously knows nothing about defense issues and defers to other ignorant guys. Here’s what he wrote about defense spending:

“defense outlays could be trimmed without doing serious violence to national security. (Brookings Institution scholar Michael O’Hanlon has discussed how Washington could responsibly cut the military budget by $60 billion through “tighter resource management, smaller ground forces and more selective modernization efforts.”)”

That is utter garbage. No, large-scale defense cuts cannot be done without endangering the United States. That is a fact. To start with, defense spending is already at a historically low ebb – 3.59% of GDP (or 4.51% of GDP if you count spending on Afghanistan, which has nothing to do with defense, and the DOE’s defense-related programs). It amunts to less than 19% of the total federal budget.

Secondly, O’Hanlon is a strident liberal from a stridently leftist organization (the Brookings Institution, which is funded by George Soros), so what he says should not be taken seriously (he writes what George Soros pays him to write). The “study” by O’Hanlon that Currie cites here is an example why. O’Hanlon says “tighter resource management, smaller ground forces and more selective modernization efforts.”

1) As for efficiency, that is doable and necessary, but it won’t save $60 bn per year because there isn’t that much waste in the annual defense budget. Not even close.

2) Cutting America’s ground forces when they are already at their minimum needed size, and with 100,000 troops still fighting in Afghanistan, would be suicidal and irresponsible. Cutting them afterwards would also be suicidal and irresponsible – the US may have to fight a ground war again sometime, and has long borders to protect. Those troops are badly needed on the US-Mexican border.

3) Yet O’Hanlon’s most dangerous proposal is that of “selective modernization efforts”, by which he means cancelling dozens of crucial weapon programs and completely foregoing modernization in some areas and of some types of units and weapons – thus leaving America unprepared for many missions and several types of combat. This is foolish, irresponsible, and dangerous. The military is mostly using obsolete equipment from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (and in some cases, such as bombers and tankers, from the 1950s). All four Services have legitimate large modernization needs. All of their needs are equally important and all must be met. America can’t afford to fund only some of them and refuse to meet the other needs. That would be an attempt to avoid reality and to pretend that modernization of some units and weapons isn’t necessary when it is. The military needs a modernization ACROSS THE BOARD, not “selective modernization”, and an across the board replacement of obsolete military equipment is long overdue. Foregoing some modernization programs is like asking the military, “I’m going to cut your arm or your leg – which do you prefer?” O’Hanlon’s proposals should therefore be rejected.

The NRO should really be ashamed of itself for publishing this screed. William F. Buckley Jr. would’ve been ashamed of today’s NR.


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