Zbigniew Mazurak's Blog

A blog dedicated to defense issues

Rebuttal of sequestration proponents’ claims

Posted by zbigniewmazurak on April 8, 2012


With less than 9 months remaining before January 2nd, 2013, when the sequester triggered by the failure of the Super Committee will kick in (absent amending Congressional legislation), some politicians have called on the Congress to retain this sequester unchanged and thus to cut defense by an additional $600 bn, thus cutting $1.087 TRILLION out of the defense budget over a decade in total BCA-mandated cuts, and they don’t care about the consequences for defense and thus for national security. Here is libertarian House member Tim Huelskamp (RINO-KS):

“Additionally, though I opposed the Budget Control Act (August 2011 debt deal), we should enforce, and hopefully exceed, the spending cuts agreed to in the mandated sequester.”

Another libertarian Congressman, Justin Amash of Michigan, claims that although he supports a strong defense, “There is much room to cut defense spending.” No, Congressman, there isn’t, and if you REALLY supported a strong defense, you wouldn’t be supporting massive cuts to defense. You can’t have it both ways. Either you support it without any qualifiers or you don’t and you support the massive cuts that you endorse.

Liberal Republican Congresscritter John Campbell (RINO-CA) also supports the sequester:

“A minority of Republicans including California Representative John Campbell say the automatic cuts should be allowed to take effect without any changes, including the defense cuts many of his colleagues and the Pentagon say would be devastating.

“There’s a lot of waste in defense and I think we should be cutting it out,” Campbell said.”

No, there isn’t a lot of waste in defense, and certainly not $100 bn per year. Not even close.

There is some waste, and it should be eliminated (and remember, I’m the author of the largest DOD reform proposals package ever devised), but there isn’t nearly as much as $100 bn per year (which is what the sequester and First Tier BCA-mandated reductions would cut out)!

The sequester, if allowed to proceed, would cut defense spending WAY too deeply (on top of all the defense cuts already implemented and scheduled, including the $487 bn in defense cuts unveiled by Panetta in January): by $600 bn. In total, the cuts would amount to $1.087 trillion over a decade, not counting the savings resulting from withdrawal from Afghanistan. Such deep cuts would gut the military. As a consequence of them, the DOD would have to, inter alia:

  • Cancel the F-35 program completely without replacement, and thus betray foreign program partners
  • Eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad completely while cutting the bomber fleet by 2/3 and cancelling the bomber replacement program
  • Delay the SSBN replacement program
  • Cancel all except the most basic upgrades for F-15s and F-16s while cutting the fighter fleet by 35%
  • Cut the USN’s ship fleet to 230 vessels, the smallest size since 1915, and vastly inadequate (independent studies say the Navy needs 346 ships)
  • Forego the deployment of any missile defense system abroad
  • Cut the Army to its smallest size since 1940
  • Cancel virtually all Army modernization programs
  • Cut the Marines down to just 145,000 personnel
  • Cut personnel benefits programs to such depth that it would break faith with them (e.g. massive cuts in DOD health programs and retirement benefits), thus discouraging people from joining the military or reenlisting

As testified by Obama’s own SECDEF, as well as all Joint Chiefs, lower-ranking generals, and other DOD officials, and as confirmed by many independent analysts and retired officers, sequestration would completely gut the military. For JCS Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, sequestration would produce “the definition of a hollow force”. For LTG Mills of the Marine Corps, “sequestration would break faith with those defending America.”

The HASC has come to similar conclusions and also warns that most of the damage that would be done to defense would be irreversible. For example, if you cancel a shipbuilding program that a shipyard relies on, the shipyard will have to close and be liquidated and will not be there to reopen when you’re finally ready to start buying ships again.

Moreover, first tier BCA-mandated budget cuts plus sequestration ($108.7 bn a year on average) plus zeroing out OCO spending (as a result of the inevitable US withdrawal from Afghanistan, $88.5 bn per year on average) means cutting the military budget by a total 32.11% – much deeper than the cuts made after the Vietnam War (26%) and almost as deep as the cuts that followed the Cold War (34%-35%). Now think about it, Dear Reader: we now know that the post-Vietnam and post-Cold-War defense cuts WRECKED the military. So how can we honest expect this round of defense cuts NOT to gut the military? We can’t. Simple math alone should tell you that, even if you don’t believe Obama’s own SECDEF, Deputy SECDEF, and Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as many lower-ranking generals, retired military officers, and independent analysts.

Speaking of the Joint Chiefs, there are only three possibilities:

1) That all of the Joint Chiefs are deliberately lying to scaremonger the Congress and the American people;

2) That all of the Joint Chiefs are ignorant guys who don’t know what they’re talking about; or

3) That Panetta, Carter, and the Joint Chiefs are right about sequestration.

I’ll leave it to you, Dear Readers, to judge for yourself which it is.

Furthermore, not only would sequestration gut defense, it would be extremely unjust. The DOD would be punished for CONGRESS’ FAILURE to design a fiscally responsible federal budget; and even though its entire budget accounts for just 19% of federal spending, and the core defense budget (which would be the portion hit with the sequester’s cuts) accounts for less than 15%. Yet, this 15% portion of the federal budget would bear a full 50% of sequestration’s cuts. This would be deeply unjust and disproportionate, in addition to gutting the military.

Huelskamp opposes entitlement reform and ridiculously claims that:

“Discretionary is the only thing we usually handle around here. To suggest we should undo discretionary cuts that are guaranteed in law in exchange for savings that may or may not occur” isn’t a solution to the spending issues facing Congress.”

But half of these “guaranteed” discretionary spending cuts would gut defense and thus imperil the country, and gutting defense with such deep cuts because this would cut spending somewhat and is “guaranteed” to happen is deeply irresponsible and downright treasonous.

The budget can be cut, and even balanced, without defense spending cuts, let alones ones as deep as this one, as the Republican Study Committee and the Heritage Foundation have shown. (Their plans would both deeply cut overall federal spending and balance the budget within a decade without cutting defense at all.)

Entitlement reform does not mean “savings that may or may occur”; it means real spending cuts, in the (by far) largest portion of the federal budget, 63% of the total, and as consequences, it means BIG spending cuts – far bigger savings than defense sequestration would ever produce. The Ryan Plan would enact real spending cuts in its first year and, over a decade, save taxpayers over 3 times more money through alternative cuts than the sequester would.

To sum up, defense spending sequestration would completely gut the military and thus imperil the country; would be deeply unjust (punishing the DOD for Congressional failure); would be disproportionate; is not necessary to reduce the deficit or balance the budget; and would save much less money than conservative plans that don’t cut defense spending (such as the RSC’s and the Heritage Foundation’s plans) would save.

Let me be clear: there is some waste in the defense budget, and I am not defending it; I support rooting it out. But there is far less of it than defense’s opponents claim, and certainly not as much as $100 bn per year. Moreover, any wasteful DOD programs need to be eliminated carefully in a targeted manner, specifically, one by one, and not used as excuses for deep, crippling defense budget cuts.

And anyone who claims there is as much as $100 bn per year worth of waste in defense spending needs to be forced to say what exact programs he claims are waste, list them all, prove that they cost $100 bn per year, and say why he thinks they are “wasteful” and how would he defend the Nation without them. The burden of proof is on the claimant.

And, as Ronald Reagan said, anyone who proposes to cut defense spending must be forced to say which defense programs the Nation can do without, why, and how it would protect itself without them.

In short, the Congress MUST protect defense from sequestration by stopping it completely.

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