On Feb. 15th, during Sec. Panetta’s hearing before the HASC on the defense budget request for the next fiscal year, a number of blatant lies were stated.
Firstly, Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made three false claims:
- that the first tier (pre-sequestration) cuts that the debt ceiling deal has ordered are merely cuts to the rate of growth of defense spending and that the defense budget will still be growing, albeit slowly, after FY2013;
- that the core defense budget, not even counting GWOT spending, has doubled since 9/11;
- that most of the threats the US will be facing during the next several decades will be asymmetric, irregular ones: terrorist organizations, insurgencies, etc.
All of his claims are blatant lies.
The defense budget WILL be cut in real terms, with or without sequestration, below FY2011 levels. That is a fact. CBO data proves that even if sequestration does not occur, defense spending WILL be cut below its FY2011 level and will not return to it before FY2019. (See the image at the end of this post.)
The claim that defense spending has doubled since 9/11 (i.e. since FY2001) is also false. In FY2001, when there was no GWOT spending, the total DOD budget was $297 bn in CY2000’s money, i.e. $390 bn in today’s money. In order to double, it would have to grow 2 times, i.e. to $780 bn (2 x $390 bn). By FY2011, however, i.e. a decade after 9/11, the core defense budget was only $529 bn, and even the total military budget was $688 bn, still almost a hundred billion dollars short of doubling its FY2001 size. And it never achieved that treshold. FY2011 was the peak of defense spending; since then, it has been shrinking constantly. The core defense budget for FY2012 is $526 bn; the total military budget for this FY is $645 bn.
Even if we don’t adjust the FY2001 DOD budget for inflation (which would give us a false picture, because inflation erodes the value of the dollar over time and since 9/11 inflation has made one dollar worth much less than it was on that day), the defense budget STILL hasn’t doubled. 2 x $297 bn is $594 bn, yet defense spending never reached that treshold during the last decade. In short, the Pentagon budget has not doubled since 9/11. Not even close.
Rep. Smith’s third claim, about the threats facing America, was also false. The most numerous and most lethal threats facing the US are states, not irregular enemies, including Communist China and Putinist Russia, who are the two most dangerous enemies of the US by far. Most terrorist organizations can’t even operate without a state sponsor, and Iran is the sponsor of most Islamic terrorist groups in the world today.
Sec. Panetta also made a number of false claims during his opening statement:
- That the US military will be technologically advanced, technologically superior, well-equipped, and ready, even if smaller.
- That the Navy will retire only obsolete ships, including seven old cruisers that would cost a lot of money to repair and fit for BMD duty, while retaining “the most flexible ships”.
- That the Air Force will still have a large airlifter fleet while retiring only old airlift planes.
- That the Air Force will still be able to dominate the skies with just 54 tactical fighter squadrons and the current bomber fleet.
- That even with all of these cuts, the US military will be the strongest in the world.
These claims were also false. Firstly, the US military will be smaller AND not ready AND saddled with obsolete, worn-out weapons and with few new weapons being purchased. Just to give a few examples, the SSBNX program will be delayed by 2 years, one previously-planned Virginia class submarine will not be bought during the next 5 years, the purchase of F-35s will be cut by 179 planes over the next five years, and cut the procurement budgets of all services. The Navy’s annual shipbuilding budget will be cut by $2 bn, and as a consequence, the Navy will be able to afford to buy only 10 ships per year which, contrary to Sec. Panetta’s rosy projections, may not be enough to support even the 285-ship Navy fleet, let alone to grow the Navy beyond 285 ships, which guarantees that the US Navy will stay smaller than the Chinese Navy and may even shrink from its current 285-ship-size (because the US Navy will be retiring ships faster than it will be replacing them).
Secondly, if keeping “the most flexible ships” in the Navy’s fleet is the goal, retiring 7 non-old Ticonderoga class cruisers and 2 amphibious ships is the worst possible way to achieve that goal. These cruisers and amphibious ships are among THE most flexible ships in the Navy’s fleet. Tico class cruisers are capable of a very wide range of missions, including BMD, air defense, anti-ship warfare, anti-submarine warfare, ground attack, etc. Amphibious ships, as the Commandant of the Marine Corps has said, are among the most flexible ships owned by the Navy and can be used for many purposes, not just amphibious warfare, but also troop and equipment transportation, resupplying the troops on the ground, humanitarian aid, command (the USS Coronado, a now-retired command ship, was an LSD before it became a command ship), etc. And contrary to Panetta’s lie that refitting these cruisers and fitting them for BMD duty would be too costly, it would not be too costly for just 7 ships (and the Navy, with an annual budget of ca. $160 bn per year, should be able to find the money for them, by making effiencies), and one of them is already BMD-capable. This will UNDERMINE America’s BMD capabilities at a time when BMD-capable ships are in short supply.
Similarly, Panetta’s assurance that the USAF will retain an adequate airlifter fleet is hollow and insincere. The USAF’s airlifter fleet is ALREADY inadequate, having had its airlifter cut from 316 to 301 aircraft this FY as ordered by the FY2012 NDAA. Even before that, however, it was inadequate, as proven during the Mad March of 2011, when the USAF had to mobilize every available airlift asset, including all of its C-5s, C-17s, and C-130s, to airlift troops and supplies to Afghanistan during the surge of US troops to that country. Moreover, the USAF, which is suffering from an airlift aircraft shortage, was, before FY2012, forced to rent 4 An-124 aircraft from the Russians at a cost of $840 mn per year (in CY2011 dollars). Buying 4 new C-17s per year would cost only $800 mn per year. And no, maintaining and modernizing these old C-5s and C-130s would not be too expensive. The Air Force could find savings to maintain and modernize them elsewhere (in bureaucracies and fuel).
Likewise, Panetta’s claim that the Air Force will still be able to dominate the skies with just 54 tactical fighter squadrons is false, not just because of the inadequate number of squadrons and aircraft, but also because most of the aircraft that will remain will be obsolete, unsurvivable legacy aircraft of the 4th generation: F-15s and F-16s. That’s because the F-35 program has been delayed so much, and orders for F-35 have been reduced so badly, that there will be too few F-35s (even after all F-35As are delivered) and they will be coming into inventory too slowly.
Which brings me to Panetta’s final false claim: that the US military, although smaller, will be technologically superior and armed with the most modern weapons available. That claim is also false. The Obama Administration’s budget plan, if enacted, would dramatically cut investments in missile defense, shipbuilding, other Navy procurement programs, non-Navy procurement, R&D, and other modernization programs. (Missile defense spending, for example, would be slashed by $0.9 bn per year.) As for shipbuilding, just a year ago, President Obama requested funding for the construction of 13 ships for FY2012 and for a total of 57 ships for the FY2012-FY2016 period. Now, just one year later, he requests funding for building only 10 ships in FY2013 and for a total of 41 ships for the FY2013-2017 timeframe, a reduction by 16 ships. Additionally, AEI analyst Mackenzie Eaglen notes that:
“Nowhere is the pivot more hollow than when it comes to the Navy. While the administration preserved funding for many big-ticket programs that dominate the headlines, others that are more discreet fell victim to budget cuts. Programs for anti-submarine warfare, electronic attacks against incoming missiles, advanced radars, sensing, cruise and ballistic missile defense, and undersea weapons all see reductions in the defense budget. These are examples of advanced technologies that a military focused on high-end warfare in the Western Pacific should be investing in, but the Administration has cut them.”
Responding to a question by Congressman Rob Wittman about the draconian cuts the Administration plans to make to the Navy’s ship fleet and to shipbuilding programs (including the Virginia class submarine), General Dempsey responded by saying that Wittman is too service-oriented and too focused on just one service (the Navy), while defending the cuts on the grounds that the DOD leadership was building a “Joint Force” and that it was planning on how the military should meet combatant commanders’ needs as a “Joint Force” – as if a “Joint Force” eliminated the need for numbers or as if jointness meant that deep cuts in fleet numbers could be made. General Dempsey even claimed that the Navy is a beneficiary of this budget and the shift to the Pacific, although he acknowledged that this hasn’t come about with any costs for the Navy at all.
In short, Panetta and Dempsey both repeatedly lied for the sake of their boss and his defense cuts.