Rebuttal of Rowan Scarborough’s and pseudoanalysts’ lies

The WashingtonTimes has published yet another garbage article by ignorant journalist Rowan Scarborough. He claims that:

“The Pentagon could hold on to its crown-jewel weapon systems even though looming automatic federal spending cuts would inflict a $54 billion gash in the 2013 defense budget, military budget analysts say.

Instead of terminating weapons, the Pentagon could trim its projected spending under the Budget Control Act, which calls for a nearly $1.2 trillion reduction in federal spending over 10 years and mandates a 10 percent across-the-board cut in its first year, beginning Jan. 2.

While painful, the indiscriminate chopping would offer a silver lining: If a newly elected Congress next year can reach a compromise to scale back cuts in 2014 and beyond, the military would be able to save its cherished big-ticket items, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, a new Army troop carrier and 11 active aircraft carriers, because they would have survived the law’s first year.

“For the most part, they would not terminate programs in the first year,” said Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessment. “They would just slow them down and scale them back. They don’t spend the money as quickly.”

Loren B. Thompson, who heads the Lexington Institute defense think tank, has studied the law and worked the numbers for sequestration, as the mandatory cuts are called.

If the Pentagon exempts personnel cuts, as the law allows, and spreads top-line cuts to weapons production and readiness, the defense spending reduction in 2013 might be only 5 percent to 6 percent.

That’s because the law targets money Congress authorizes, which can take several years to spend, rather than “outlays,” which are government checks that have been written.

A ‘penalty sequestration’

Mr. Thompson wrote in his Early Warning Blog that this may not be all bad for defense contractors.

“With everyone seeming to focus on the negative right now, it’s easy to overlook the fact that cuts to budget authority made in 2013 will spread out over several years, reducing the near-term impact on contractors,” he wrote.

The Pentagon has prepared a $525 billion budget for 2013, a reduction of more than 5 percent from the previous fiscal year’s spending plan. Sequestration would cut the 2013 budget to about $471 billion.

Mr. Thompson sees a new Congress as a possible savior, “sending a signal to investors that sequestration isn’t going to last for very long.”

“In the first year, it’s considered a penalty sequestration because the supercommittee failed and you have no ability to target the cuts,” Mr. Harrison said. “They don’t have to make many decisions at all. The decisions are made for them.”

The remaining nine years of sequestration allow the Pentagon flexibility. It will have to pick winners and losers to save its top priorities instead of just slashing everything.

“I think we would see the Pentagon come in with a budget that does actually terminate some weapon systems that are lower priority so it can protect weapon systems that are a higher priority,” he said.

Budget flexibility

Mr. Harrison predicts that the Pentagon, in sequestration’s second year, would shrink the purchase of the F-35s, cut the active carrier force to 10 and retire more warplanes.

The Pentagon’s long-range budget already has absorbed a $487 billion decrease in projected spending over 10 years. The budget law requires an additional $492 billion reduction if Congress does not intervene.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and the military chiefs have invoked stark terms, such as “hollow force,” to describe what the armed services would look like if nearly $1 trillion is taken out of projected spending.

Gordon Adams, senior national security budget official for President Clinton, said that once the Pentagon on Jan. 2 has to suddenly extract $54 billion in the middle of the fiscal year, the jolt will spur action.

“They are not going to plan for the outyears of the sequester, anyway, while the Congress is trying to figure out what to do about it,” Mr. Adams said. “The reality, I think, is even if there is a sequester, Congress will do what Congress has done the last four times there was a sequester. Congress fixes it after it happens.

“What I fully expect the next step is Congress steps in with the White House and they figure out a way to fix it.”

He said the Pentagon may have more flexibility in the first year than it appears now because the White House Budget Office has not ruled on exactly how to carry out the budget act.

“Anybody who tells you with certainty how this will happen should there be a sequester is fooling you because they don’t know what options [the Defense Department] is going to choose and how [the Office of Management and Budget] is going to define it,” Mr. Adams said.


“I don’t think it would lead to a hollow force,” Mr. Adams said of sequestration. “I think it would lead to a one-year difficult atmosphere for management and spending, but it will not lead to a hollow force. It is the kind of thing in the long term you can plan around.””

What utter garbage, written of course by the ignorant Rowan Scarborugh. What “analysts” has he chosen to ask for opinion? Leftists like Todd Harrison and Gordon Adams (who was the architect of the Clinton Admin’s deep defense cuts) and one centrist, Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute.

Firstly, no, the sequester does not allow for ANY flexibility. If it goes through, it will require UNIFORM across-the-board cuts of EVERY program in the DOD, including all DOD weapons programs, by 10%. Everything would have to be cut by that amount. If sequestration goes through, the DOD cannot choose what to cut and what not to cut, it will have to cut EVERYTHING deeply.

Secondly, as stated above, and as admitted by Scarborough himself, the sequester would require a 10% cut of the defense budget, and that would be on top of the cuts required by the First Tier of the Budget Control Act ($487 bn).

Thirdly, no, the DOD would not be able to protect even its most important equipment programs. The cuts would be deep – $60 bn per year, i.e. over 10% of the DOD’s annual budget – and would have to be applied to EVERY program. And since you can’t buy 9/10s or 3/4s of a ship or a plane, that means the DOD would have to cancel entire programs, including the F-35, the next-gen bomber, and the Ground Combat Vehicle. Moreover, the total depth of the cuts would be so huge that a post-sequester defense budget ($471 bn in FY2013) would be so woefully inadequate that there wouldn’t be enough money for even the most important programs. There simply wouldn’t be. I know, because I’ve studied the defense budget in depth.

$471 bn would be barely enough topay the troops, provide for their healthcare, maintain current bases in the US, administer the DOD, and maintain some of today’s military equipment, and that’s it. Let’s face the facts: a $471 bn defense budget would be WOEFULLY INADEQUATE.

Even if the budget were adequate to purchase the most important weapons, though – the “crown jewels” – that would still be NO justification for it and it wouldn’t make the sequester any less damaging. That is because the US military needs a wide variety of modern weapons and equipment, in large quantities, to carry out its missions – from aircraft to missiles to missile defense equipment to warships to ground vehicles. It is extremely irresponsible to force it to rob Peter to pay Paul, which is what the “analysts” cited here seem to advocate, or at least be comfortable with.

The fact is that the military needs to replace virtually its entire equipment kit, except tanks, IFVs, and Apache helicopters, which can be modernized.

Adams’s claim that “it would lead to a one-year difficult atmosphere for management and spending, but it will not lead to a hollow force” is a blatant lie, stated, of course, by the architect of the Clinton Admin’s disastrous defense cuts, so he’s trying to lull the American people into a false sense of security. It WOULD lead to a hollow force (as well as a much smaller one), because it would mandate deep cuts in BOTH the force structure AND in weapon procurement and R&D programs across the board – from GCVs, to missile defense systems to missiles, to helicopters, to ships, to fighters, bombers, tankers, cargoplanes, and EW aircraft. That would be a hollow force. Indeed, for Chairman of the JCS, Gen. Martin Dempsey, that would be “the definition of a hollow force.”

Speaking of him, he, all other Joint Chiefs, the SECDEF, the Deputy SECDEF, Service Vice Chiefs, other generals and admirals (serving and retired), and other national security experts all agree that sequestration would be disastrous and would produce a hollow force (and thus imperil America’s security).

Whom should the American people believe?

The American people can believe them or a few pseudoanalysts and one WaTimes journalists who think that, despite clear warnings from the people closest to the problem – the Joint Chiefs and other generals and admirals, with many decades of military experience under their belts – still claim that sequestration wouldn’t be that bad.

Or to put it this way: the Joint Chiefs, other generals, and the SECDEF are either:
a) lying through their teeth to scaremonger the public;
b) being ignorant; or
c) rightly sounding the alarm bells on issue on which they’re the best experts in America.

Which is it?


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