Less than 9 months from now, on January 2nd, 2013, the sequestration of defense spending will kick in unless the Congress stops it.
The opponents of a strong defense are triumphing. They are this close to achieving what they’ve been striving to achieve for decades: completely gutting America’s defense, so they will be able to do what none of America’s external enemies have been able to accomplish: bring the US military to its knees.
So now, as the Congress mulls whether to save defense from sequestration, they are protesting and pressuring the Congress to allow the sequester’s deep, unjustifiable, disproportionate defense cuts to occur.
So I’d like to present the facts to the Congress and the public: 6 reasons why defense spending sequestration should not and must not occur.
#1: It would gut the military.
This is not mere scaremongering. This would be an inevitable consequence of sequestration. The sequester’s cuts ($600 bn over a decade, i.e. 60 bn per year on average, on top of the $487 bn cuts already ordered by the BCA and all previous defense cuts implemented by Obama) would require the DOD to:
- 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.
#2: While gutting the military, it would totally fail to address the deficit problem.
These cuts would be deep in terms of the defense budget (constituting, by themselves, more than 10% of it), but they would utterly fail to address the federal budget deficit, which is $1.3 trillion this fiscal year. Jut this year alone. Sequestration would not even make a dent in that deficit.
#3: It would mean betraying the federal government’s #1 responsibility.
The federal government’s #1 Constitutional duty is providing for the common defense. Gutting defense, as sequestration would, would mean a total dereliction of that duty. The #1 duty of any government is to provide security for its citizens. If the federal government cannot perform that function, there’s no reason to have a federal government at all.
#4: It would be a deeply disproportionate whacking.
Although total military spending amounts to just 19%, and the core defense budget (the part of the military budget that would be it by sequestration) to less than 15%, of total federal spending, it would bear 50% of the brunt of the budget cuts under sequestration. The other 50% of the sequester would be spread across a multitude of domestic discretionary programs, while entitlements would suffer no cuts at all except small reductions ($2 bn per year) of the Medicare program.
#5: It would allow entitlements and other social and domestic programs to skate away with tiny cuts and thus benefit their supporters politically.
Because these cuts would disproportionately hit defense while cutting other federal programs mildly (discretionary programs) or not at all (entitlements, except Medicare), they would politically benefit only the Left, which would win a huge victory this way by managing to protect its beloved social programs (domestic discretionary spending and entitlements) from serious cuts. That should be unacceptable for any conservative, indeed, for any Republican.
#6: It would gut the defense industry.
Although liberals and libertarians won’t like it, I’ll say it anyway: sequestration would gut the defense industry and that’s a VERY BAD THING. The defense industry has already suffered enough as a result of the closure of over 50 procurement programs and Obama’s 2009-2011 defense cuts ($400 bn by his own admission). Now the defense industry, facing the prospect of sequestration and thus mass program closures and order cancellations, is already closing facilities and laying off hundreds of workers.
Proceeding with sequestration would make matters much worse. Many more industrial facilities would be closed (permanently), and hundreds of thousands of defense industry workers would be laid off. According to Secretary Panetta and the Center for Security Policy, the unemployment rate would shoot up by a full percentage point and every state would feel sequestration’s impact on defense deeply.
And that damage would be irreversible in most companies’ and facility cases. As the HASC points out, a shipyard forced to close for many years by sequestration (and the resulting cuts in or cancellations of ship orders) will not wait 10 years for America to balance its budget and will not be open 10 years later when the US Navy will finally have the money to buy ships. Once orders are deeply cut (or cancelled outright), and once shipyards close as a result, they will close permanently.
In short, sequestration would deeply and irreversibly damage America’s defense industrial base, making it much harder to rebuild the military itself down the road.
To sum up, there is no good reason to proceed with defense spending sequestration. There are at least 6 good reasons to cancel it. Let’s hope the Congress does so.