It appears that last year, pseudoconservative libertarian leaders such as David A. Keene, Grover Norquist, and Al Regnery sent the Congress (in March 2011) another petition, one which until recently has escaped my attention here it is in its entirety:
“The 112th Congress, tasked with a clear mandate to cut spending, must look to not only cut spending now, but permanently arrest the bias towards the careless wastefulness, bred of cronyism, that has plagued Washington for too long. To that end, lawmakers must dismiss the erroneous assumptions that have led to sacrosanct budgeting; no longer can select departments and programs enjoy protected status in the appropriations process. Conservatives should enthusiastically reject the notion that any area of the federal budget should be protected from examination. Attempts to isolate departments or programs from scrutiny undermine any serious efforts for positive spending reform — for this and many generations to come. Any policymaker determined to cut government spending must commit to keeping spending cuts in all departments on the table — whether efficiencies can be realized in the Department of Defense or the Department of Education, they must all be considered fair game in the battle to instill fiscal prudence in federal spending.
Al Regnery, The American Spectator
Bill Pascoe, Citizens for the Republic
Bob Barr, Liberty Guard
Brian Burch, CatholicVote.org
Chip Faulkner, Citizens for Limited Taxation
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute
Chuck Muth, Citizen Outreach
David A. Keene, American Conservative Union
Duane Parde, National Taxpayers Union
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Jim Martin, 60 Plus Association
Joe Seehusen, Liberty Guard
John Tate, Campaign for Liberty
Karen Kerrigan, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
L. Brent Bozell, Media Research Center
Lewis K. Uhler, National Tax Limitation Committee
Lisa Miller, Tea Party WDC
Matt Kibbe, Freedomworks
Mattie Corrao, Center for Fiscal Accountability
Richard Viguerie, ConservativeHQ.com
Rick Watson, Florida Center-Right Coalition
Seton Motley, Less Government
Susan Carleson, American Civil Rights Union
Tim Phillips, Americans for Prosperity
Tom Giovanetti, Institute for Policy Innovation
Tom Schatz, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
William Greene, RightMarch.com
Thomas Whitmore, Washington DC Tea Party
Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.”
This is completely false.
Firstly, the DOD has NEVER enjoyed “protected status in the appropriations process”, let alone shielding from “examination” and “scrutiny”.
Defense spending has NEVER enjoyed “protected status” and does not enjoy such status now. It has been dramatically reduced in real terms, and as a percentage of GDP, numerous times during the last 65 years alone: year-on-year during the late 1940s, during the 1950s (after the Korean War), during the entire 1970s, and during the entire 1980s (actually, from FY1987 until FY2002, when defense spending grew slightly for the first time since FY1986). And even during periods when the Congress did not reduce total defense spending, it did close or cut many crucial weapon programs – even during the Bush era when the Comanche, XM2001, E-10MCA, and J-UCAS programs were closed and many other weapon programs (e.g. the F-22, F-35, Zumwalt class and San Antonio class programs) were significantly reduced. During FY2010 and FY2011, the Congress closed or cut over 50 DOD weapon programs. In January 2011, Robert Gates achieved another 178 bn in savings. Then, in August 2011, President Obama signed into law a debt ceiling deal which orders the DOD to cut its core budget by another 450 bn (Obama has increased that goal to 487 bn) and in November 2011, the Super Committee triggered a sequester which will cut the DOD’s core budget by another 600 bn over a decade. (Under the sequester, the DOD, which has already contributed far more to deficit reduction than any other government agency, will have to bear 50% of the cuts even though it accounts for merely 19% of the federal budget.)
And that will not be achieved by mere “efficiencies”, it will mean drastic cuts in personnel numbers, modernization programs, the force structure, and benefits programs for the troops, which means breaking faith with them. As the Wall Street Journal has recently rightly noted:
“The Administration’s record to date is undeniable. Defense was targeted from day one in office, and Mr. Obama disguised his latest, steepest retrenchment as part of a new “strategic review” earlier this month.”
The bottom line is that defense spending has NEVER enjoyed “protected status”. Not this fiscal year. Not during the previous fiscal year. Not during the Bush era. Not ever. The claim that “defense spending continues to enjoy protected status” is a blatant lie.
Moreover, the idea that the DOD does not deserve protection from budget cuts or that defense spending is just another line item in the federal budget like education spending, is wrong, despicable, and un-conservative. Defense is the #1 Constitutional DUTY of the federal government, and one that is currently underfunded (the core defense budget, 526 bn, amounts to just 3.59% of GDP). Federal education spending, on the other hand, is unconstitutional.
2) The claim that the DOD has so far been exempted or protected from scrutiny and examination is also a blatant lie, not just in light of all the massive budget cuts imposed on it during the last 3 years (not to mention the deep defense cuts of the past decades), but also in light of the scrutiny that defense spending routinely undergoes every year. Dozens of hearings are held on this subject every year by the Congress, during which the witnesses are obliged to speak the truth. Many questions that are asked during those hearings are tough, as anyone who has watched them (I have watched many of them on CSPAN) can attest. Rep. Randy Forbes has even developed a habit of routinely grilling DOD officials about how many auditible financial statements have been filed for this or that fiscal year, and when the DOD will be finally capable of producing them and be audit-ready. He even introduced legislation to cut the SECDEF’s personal spending to prod the DOD to work harder on this issue. The claim that defense spending has ever been exempted from serious scrutiny or examination is false. (And I don’t oppose “serious scrutiny” or “examination” of defense spending, but serious scrutiny/examination is one thing; cutting the defense budget is quite another.)
3) The claim that “Any policymaker determined to cut government spending must commit to keeping spending cuts in all departments on the table” is a blatant lie, and is also un-conservative. No, he/she doesn’t have to and shouldn’t. Firstly, as has been stated above, the idea that defense spending is just another line item in the federal budget like education spending, is wrong, despicable, and un-conservative. Defense is the #1 Constitutional DUTY of the federal government, and one that is currently underfunded (the core defense budget, 526 bn, amounts to just 3.59% of GDP). Federal education spending, on the other hand, is unconstitutional.
Secondly, defense has already been cut way too deeply, and is on the hook for a further 600 bn cut if the sequester is allowed to stand (and these same guys are pressuring the Congress to keep the sequester and its distribution of cuts unchanged). If that is allowed to happen, defense will be completely gutted.
Thirdly, as the last 3 years have shown again (but not for the first time), whenever defense spending is put on the table, it quickly becomes the ONLY thing on the table. During the last 3 years, ONLY defense spending has been subjected to significant cuts and ONLY the DOD has been forced to make significant budget reductions, while other government departments, including the Department of Education, the Department of State, the DHS, and the DHHS, have seen their budgets grow rapidly (for example, the budget of the Department of State has been more than doubled). Only the DOD has been forced to make deep budget cuts, while other government departments have contributed nothing or very little.
This is, of course, not surprising to anyone who knows at least a little about defense spending and federal budgets; whenever defense spending is put on the table, it quickly becomes the ONLY thing on the table. During the late 1940s, the late 1950s, the 1970s, and the 1990s, defense spending was the ONLY kind of federal spending that was cut significantly, while all other parts of the federal budget escaped with only small cuts or (in the case of entitlements and certain other federal programs) no cuts at all. Entitlements have been growing nonstop on autopilot ever since their creation.
4) Despite these libertarians liars’ claim that defense spending has so far been off the table and has enjoyed “protected status” in the appropriations process, the fact is that it has not only seen significant cuts, it has seen hugely disproportionate ones. As stated above, only the DOD has been forced to make deep budget cuts, while other government departments have contributed nothing or very little. Now the core defense budget is subject to sequestration, which will cut it by 600 bn over a decade and thus force the DOD to bear 50% of the brunt of the sequester’s cuts even though its core budget constitutes less than 15% of total federal spending and even though the other component of the DOD’s budget, spending on the GWOT, is shrinking annually and scheduled to zero out in FY2016. In other words, a government department that constitutes just 19% of all federal spending will have to bear a full 50% of the brunt of the budget cuts.
5) Last but not least, at the end of its page containing the petition, the utterly-discredited “Committee for the Republic” quotes the now-retired, discredited, ignorant idiot Admiral Michael Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying in a January 2011 press conference:
“My own experience here is that in doubling (Pentagon budget in last decade), we’ve lost our ability to prioritize, to make hard decisions, to do tough analysis, to make trades.”
This is completely false. Firstly, the Pentagon budget has NOT been doubled during the last decade. Not even close. The FY2001 defense budget was 390 bn in today’s money (297 bn in CY2000 dollars); the total FY2011 DOD budget was 688 bn (529 bn + 119 bn). To double, the DOD budget would have to grow to 780 bn, which it has never done. It has never even been close to that treshold. The FY2011 DOD budget was almost 100 bn off the mark. So Mullen was completely wrong.
Secondly, the claim that during the FY2001-FY2011 decade the DOD lost its ability to “prioritize, to make hard decisions, to do tough analysis, to make trades” is also a blatant lie. The DOD had to prioritize, make tough analysis, and make trades and hard decisions throughout the entire decade. Under Secretary Rumsfeld, the US military had to give up many conventional weapon stocks and programs, and aircraft procurement was radically cut, in order to pay for the Afghan and Iraqi wars and the expansion of “irregular warfare” capabilities. Under Secretary Gates, that trend was hastened, and the US military was continually being ordered to rob Peter to pay Paul. Under President Obama, over 50 weapon programs have already been closed and over 400 bn in savings was achieved from January 2009 to April 2011, by Obama’s own admission.
These anti-defense libertarians who signed this garbage petition are not conservatives and have no right to call themselves conservatives.