Obama’s reckless, unjustifiable, irresponsible defense cuts

Not content with the damage he has already done to the military with several rounds of defense cuts, including a reckless, unfavorable (for the US) New START treaty, Obama has now embarked on another round of defense cuts.

Yesterday, the DOD outlined its FY2013 budget request, consisting of core defense budget and OCO budget proposals, which will both require Congressional approval. Secretary Panetta was under an order from Congress to cut the defense budget by $450 bn over the next decade, and  under orders from Obama to cut it by$487 bn over a decade. In real terms, this means not only zero defense spending growth, it means real-term cuts both in the core defense budget and in the OCO budget.

There are many bad decisions contained in the defense budget request which will weaken America’s national defense, but here are the 10 most troubling ones:

  • By Sec. Panetta’s own admission, personnel spending was “protected” from serious cuts, and will see only minor reductions, even though it already constitutes 33% of the entire defense budget and is projected to consume 100% by FY2039 unless reduced.
  • The already-inadequate airlift aircraft fleet will be reduced further and deeply. Last year, under pressure from the Congress, the strategic airlift fleet was cut by 16 aircraft, from 316 to 300, and the public was told that this would be sufficient. Now it will be cut even further. And despite the DOD’s claims that “studies” supposedly show that there is “excess airlift capability”, the fact is that it is inadequate, as shown by REAL-LIFE PRACTICE. The USAF has had to rent Russian An-124 aircraft to fly troops, equipment, and supplies to Afghanistan, at a cost of at least $840 mn per year, because its airlift capability is inadequate. The Heritage Foundation also says that the airlift fleet is too small. The C-5A fleet will be cut by a whopping 27 planes and the C-130 fleet by 65 aircraft.
  • Cuts in missile defense. The DOD admits that “Despite its importance, we were not able to protect all of the funding in this area. (…) We reduced spending and accepted some risk in deployable regional missile defense and will increase reliance on allies and partners in the future.”
  • Reckless cuts in the Navy’s fleet. The Navy, despite its role to play in the world (including the Asia-Pacific region, whose importance was underlined in the Defense Strategy and the DOD’s other papers), will lose 7 Ticonderoga class cruisers (including one with BMD capability which was due for a refit), two Landing Dock Ships (LSDs), and a number of oilers and other fleet support vessels, while a Virginia class submarine will be pushed out of the Five Year Defense Plan and an LHA will be delayed by one year – further increasing the costs of these programs.
  • A delay of the SSBNX (Ohio class replacement) program by two years, solely for budgetary reasons – and it will likely increase the program’s cost.
  • While the Navy will be forced to retire a number of crucial surface ships and delay submarines and one LHA, the Littoral Combat Ship was not cut at all, let alone closed, despite its egregious cost overruns and delays and its lack of usability for any combat whatsoever, including light combat.
  • The budget cuts the meat and bone of the US military instead of making European countries pay for their own defense. It does not withdraw a single Army brigade or Air Force wing from Europe. It will merely redeploy two Army brigades to the US while still rotating them to Europe, while the other two will remain on the continent.
  • The budget does not make any reforms of the military’s retirement system whatsoever, instead calling for the establishment of a commission, and the DOD opposes any changes of the system for current members of the military and is willing to change it only for future recruits.
  • While the budget does not cut the already-inadequate nuclear arsenal and the already-inadequate nuclear triad, it does leave the option of unilateral cuts of these arsenals in the near future. According to the DOD, the White House is currently conducting a “review” of whether or not to cut or change the nuclear deterrent.
  • The two Army heavy brigades that will be withdrawn from Europe will not just be withdrawn, they will be eliminated. This means that the Army will lose TWO heavy brigades and their equipment. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/27/army-chief-lays-out-army-cuts-europe/)

The Heritage Foundation correctly criticizes these cuts as follows:

The Wall Street Journal reports that, as part of the plan to cope with funding cuts and reduced troop levels, the U.S. military plans to increase the U.S. fleet of unmanned drones by 30 percent and increasingly rely on special-operations teams based around the globe. Unfortunately, that won’t be sufficient to manage America’s defense needs. The following facts are important to bear in mind as Panetta lays out the stripped-down strategy:

  • We are returning to ground forces levels we had under Clinton when the Army strained and scrambled to execute smaller missions like Kosovo and Bosnia—let alone significant ground force operations.
  • Special operations are a scalpel, not a Swiss army knife. They are not an “easy-button” substitute for the many security missions the United States undertakes worldwide.
  • Special operations are most effective when launched with the backbone of support-providing conventional forces. The U.S. Navy’s presence was essential in Somalia, the Air Force’s support in the first phase of Afghanistan, and the Army’s muscle during the surge in Iraq. Special forces without robust conventional forces is like a wide receiver without a quarterback and a line. It’s a return to Desert One.
  • Shrinking Army units and trimming capabilities are the classic hollowing-out techniques that led to the hollow and broken military of the Carter era.
  • The problem with these cuts is that America’s enemies can count, and they’ll quickly determine that the United States won’t be able to cover its responsibilities worldwide.
  • What’s not been discussed is the cutting of corners in maintenance and readiness that are bound to leave us with less capable forces.
  • Fewer troops in all the services will be scrambling in a global shell game to mask the fact that the United States can’t defend all of its interests. The force will be even more stressed than at the height of Iraq and Afghanistan. Rushing two carriers to the Gulf rather than just stationing one there is first sign of the global shell game.
  • By cutting the defense budget, the United States is undermining the responsiveness of its defense industrial base. In addition, without proper investments, the United States will lose technological advantages vis-à-vis its future strategic competitors.
  • Spending on national defense, a core constitutional function of government, has declined significantly over time, despite wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Spending on the three major entitlementsSocial SecurityMedicare, and Medicaid—has more than tripled.
  • Defense accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget but already exceeds 50 percent of deficit-reduction efforts. And for every dollar the President hopes to save in domestic programs, he plans on saving $128 in defense.”

Obama’s defense cuts are reckless, unjustifiable, and irresponsible. Congress should reject them and find savings elsewhere.


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