As all knowledgeable people acknowledge, and as myself and so many others have explained multiple times, defense spending sequestration, if it were to go through, would deeply cut defense spending (by $600 bn over a decade) on top of all the $492 bn ordered by the first tier of the BCA.
Such deep cuts would both gut America’s defense and deeply and irreversibly cripple the US defense industry (and related industries). Once a shipyard closes because of a lack of warship orders, you can’t reopen it when you’re finally ready to start buying ships again. The unemployment rate would shoot up by at least a full percentage point.
However, I fear that the argument by most proponents of repealing sequestration and those sympathetic to our cause is too centered on the economic aspect of it, and the disastrous national security consequences of sequestrationare I believe, not being underlined often enough.
Such is, I think, the problem with the Defending Our Defenders Tour that HASC Readiness Subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes (R-VA-04) and his fellow Virginian Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA-02) have embarked on and with the interviews they give to the media (e.g Fox News’ Martha MacCallum and Gretchen Carlson).
Of course, the defense industry, and the wider economy, are very important. The industry is what supplies the military with the equipment it needs to do its job; cuts’ impact on the wider economy cannot, be ignored to its sheer size; and adding another full percentage point to the unemployment rate would be a disaster.
But making this our primary argument, instead of a second, supplementary one, risks failure of the entire campaign to undo sequestration, because people will then think that we’re doing this only, or mainly, for the defense industry in order to defend its profits (which come out of taxpayers’ pockets). It will then be easy for anti-defense demagogues to mislead people into believing that if sequestration goes through, national security will not be adversely affected, only the Big Bad defense industry’s profits will be cut.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth (sequestration would be a national security disaster of unmitigated proportions), but that is the impression we risk making on the American people if the economic argument becomes our primary one.
We need to explain to the American people that, sequestration would, first and foremost, mean the total gutting of our military and jeopardizing of our national security, while the budget deficit would not even see a dent.
That is why I was pleased today to see a recent video of Martha MacCallum interviewing SASC&SBC member Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), during which:
1) Ms MacCallum played the videoclip of Leon Panetta explaining that sequestration would be disastrous because it was designed to be that way, the logic being that it would induce the Congress to agree on a deficit reduction package;
2) She also played a clip of Gen. Martin Dempsey saying, during the same 6/13/2012 SAC hearing, that sequestration would hollow out the military and thus significantly increase the risk of war;
3) Sen. Kelly Ayotte reminded the viewers that, as Assistant USMC Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford has stated, if the sequestration goes through, the Marine Corps will be cut so badly that it won’t be able to respond to even one major contingency or war. That’s right: if any major trouble flares up, even on America’s borders, don’t bother calling the Marines.
I don’t think the American people would regret cutting defense spending if it were to merely cut the profits of the defense industry. But most of them, I believe, don’t want to cut or otherwise weaken the military, want to be secure, and want peace. So they can be convinced to oppose sequestration and other deep defense cuts if their national security consequences were explained to them.
Last but certainly not least, I’d like to note that Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer have both paid much attention to this issue and concern about the security and economic consequences of sequestration, and I’d like to thank them for that. Yet, importantly, they are not biased in favor of either side of the debate, unlike, for example, CNN’s Carol Costello. After Ms MacCallum’s interview with Forbes, Hemmer added “in the middle of a war”.
Let’s remember that, folks. Congress has created a sequester that will gut the military. In the middle of a war.