Rebuttal of Gordon Adams’s litany of lies

The AOL defense portal, which is not exactly friendly to the cause of a strong defense, has recently (on July 12th) published a ridiculous litany of blatant lies written by extremely leftist political hack (and former Clinton Administration official) Gordon Adams, the architect of the disastrous defense cuts of the 1990s. It’s a litany of lies from the beginning to the end. Here’s just a sample:

“Our defense budget is way, way too large for our security needs. We have major economic and budgetary security issues to solve. And we do not face any existential threat and won’t for decades. And it will come down, at least $1 trillion from the level projected for ten years in last year’s defense budget (or twice what Panetta has proposed), setting any unlikely sequester aside.

A build down at that rate would still be less steep than in any since the end of the Korean War. It can be managed; we’ve done it before and can do it again.”

Utter garbage, written of course by an irredeemably biased, extremely leftist political hack who served as President Clinton’s budget official designing, arbitrarily cutting defense budgets by large margins during the 1990s. I will not even bother to reply to his entire pathetic screed, just to his most ridiculous claims to illustrate how biased, how ignorant, and how extreme in his defense ideology Gordon Adams is:

1) Contrary to his claims, the defense cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act, including the sequester, if allowed to go through, would cut over $100 bn PER YEAR out of the core defense budget (which currently amounts to $531 bn per year). These, together with cuts resulting from the withdrawal from Afghanistan ($88.5 bn per year, $192 bn in total out of an annual $645 bn DOD budget), would be by far the DEEPEST defense cuts implemented in America since the end of the Korean War – by both the raw dollar amount and as a share of the defense budget.

I repeat, the nation has not seen such deep defense cuts since the end of the Korean War. Even the post-Vietnam and post-Cold-War defense cuts were not as deep. Moreover, today’s cuts are from a much lower starting level of military spending (4.4% of GDP) than at the start (or even the end) of the post-Vietnam and post-Cold-War defense cuts (9% and 6% of GDP, respectively).

And again, contrary to his lies, these defense cuts made the US military much weaker and America much less safe. After the post-Vietnam cuts, the US military became hollow and impotent, and morale also collapsed. It was not ready for contingencies such as the failed Tehran embassy hostage rescue mission. It became inferior to the Soviet military, emboldening the Soviet Union and its allies to go on an expansionist binge. As a result, they invaded half a dozen countries, oppressing millions of people. Even former SECDEF Robert Gates, himself a tough budgeteer, says that the 1970s’ were “a disastrous period for our military.”

(UPDATE: As recorded by Monica Crowley in her 1998 book Nixon In Winter, the defense cuts of the 1970s – which began in 1969, when 550,000 American troops were still in harms way – were so disastrous that, according to President Nixon, they deeply undercut the military’s ability to fight by 1973, making it impossible for America to win what was otherwise a winnable war.)

Likewise, the deep defense cuts that followed the Cold War’s end were disastrous for the military. It was dramatically reduced in size, procurement of over 100 types of needed weapons was cancelled completely, and for many other weapon programs, it was reduced. The Navy lost over 80 ships and the shipbuilding program was dramatically cut. Readiness suffered so badly that tank units had to use golf carts to practice tank tactics. The military was so decrepit as a result that in 2000, Clinton’s OWN Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that the cuts wrecked the military and “mortgaged its future”, and said they needed additional tens of billions of dollars (in 2000’s money!) to repair the military. In 2001, when Secretary Rumsfeld arrived, he was shocked and surprised to learn that the military was in a far worse condition than he anticipated, and this was confirmed by the Clinton-appointed Chairman of the JCS, Gen. Henry Shelton. Military bases had turned into slums, according to USA Today. At the end of the 1990s, it was recognized that the military had been gutted and was woefully underfunded, and even deficit hawks critical of the DOD, such as John Kasich (R-OH), were saying, “We’ve got to put more money into the Pentagon” and suggested budget increases ranging from $50 bn to $100 bn a year – in CY2000’s dollars.

Only a strident, extreme leftist with a political agenda would deny that these cuts weakened the military. Adams is such a political hack.

But he’s worse: he claims that deep defense cuts actually make the military “a better force”. He’s either ignorant or in denial of the fact that deep budget cuts result in dramatic cuts in the military’s size and orders of new equipment, i.e. they dramatically WEAKEN it.

2) What he calls “defense build-downs” are actually massive, damaging, arbitrary defense cuts. He just avoids using the term “defense cuts” because he knows the American people don’t want that, so he deceptively calls it “build-downs.”

3) The Soviet threat was actually routinely UNDERSTATED, not overstated. Likewise, China’s military capabilities are being routinely understated, not exaggerated (government officials do so to curry favor with Beijing; political hacks like Adams do so to “justify” indefensible, massive defense cuts.)

As an example, at the end of the CW the CIA estimated that Moscow had only 20,000 nuclear warheads. But in early 1992, when American inspectors visited Russia, they learned it had 40,000 nuclear warheads left over from the Soviet period – twice as many as the CIA estimated. Nowadays, China’s and Russia’s military capabilities are also being vastly understated, usually by leftist anti-defense hacks with a political agenda like Gordon Adams. When China can threaten the US Navy with a plethora of anti-access/access denial weapons, has 3,000 nuclear warheads, and is building aircraft carriers and fifth generation fighters, that is nothing to be underestimated. Yet, Adams makes light of it. He also ridiculously claims that “we’re not facing any existential threat and won’t for many decades”. How can he predict that? He can’t. He’s not a prophet and does not have a crystal ball. He’s merely trying to lull the American people into a false sense of security. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea may not be existential threats to America yet, but they are far more dangerous than Adams admits, and China is already a peer competitor, contrary to Adams’s lie that it’s five decades behind the US.

4) Contrary to his lies, missile defense WORKS, and its works very well. Missile defense systems have passed the vast majority of their tests. THAAD has an over 70% success rate; Aegis and SM-3, an over 80% success rate, including two recent successful tests of the SM-3 Block 1B. Moreover, missile defense systems have been proven to work in real threat environments. PATRIOT systems successfully shot down Saddam’s Scud missiles in 1991 and 2003, and SM-3 shot down an errant satellite in 2008. Thus, they’ve completely debunked Adams’ and other leftists’ lie that “missile defense doesn’t work”. The $150 bn was spent on it over 30 years, i.e. an average of $5 bn a year, less than 1% of the defense budget, and it was a worthy investment. Because of it, and because of Ronald Reagan’s vision, America now has an operational missile defense network capable of intercepting all classes of BMs.

5) Contrary to his lies, the US defense budget is NOT “way, way too large for our security needs.” The base defense budget, $531 bn in this FY, amounts to just 3.63% of America’s GDP. It’s a very low level of spending. Excepting the late 1990s, that is the lowest share of GDP consumed by defense since FY1948. The total military budget ($645 bn in this FY), which includes war costs and the DOE’s nuclear programs, amounts to just 4.41% of GDP, and again, excepting the late 1990s and early 2000s, that’s the lowest share of GDP devoted to the military since FY1948. Even Jimmy Carter spent a larger %age of GDP on defense. As a share of the federal budget, the base defense program is also at a record low not seen even during the Clinton years: at less than 15%. (Total military spending amounts to about 19% of the total federal budget, but that’s still far less than it was throughout the entire Cold War and through most of the Nation’s history.)

6) The B-1 bomber MET the USAF’s specifications and has now served it ably over more than 23 years. It has seen extensive and successful service in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. It has an unrefueled combat radius of almost 3000 nmi and huge payload. When then-SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld asked three outside experts in 1976 for an analysis of alternatives, they unanimously wrote that the B-1 was the best choice for the Air Force.

7) It is not true that SECDEFs have proposed only trimming at the margins of DOD health and retirement programs. They have repeatedly proposed bold reforms of these (following the DBB’s advice), however, CONGRESS has repeatedly rejected them. Secretary Gates and Secretary Panetta have been especially bold in their proposals and about the need to adopt them. Hopefully, Sec. Panetta will succeed where previous SECDEFs have failed.

8) “The security of space, the air, the sea, and the internet is ensured by international law, common understandings, and civilian international organizations, not by the military.” That is also a blatant lie. Civilian international organizations and “international law” do not protect the commons of space, air, sea, and the Net. They have no means to do so. They only set the rules of behavior and usage for these avenues, but they have no means to enforce these rules. Yet, laws and agreements are irrelevant dead letters if they are not enforced. Who protects the commons of travel and access today? It’s the United States. It was George Washington who first noticed that the US could never protect its naval merchants, the sealanes, and its citizens unless it had a strong Navy. “Without a strong Navy, we can do nothing definitive”, he said. If America listens to Adams, the military will be gutted, and will not be able to protect the airspace, cyberspace, and most importantly, sealanes on which America’s security AND economy depend. Cutting defense will thus only further exacerbate America’s economic woes rather than solve then (even ignoring the direct economic impact of deep defense cuts; let’s assume that the skilled workers of the defense industry find jobs elsewhere… McDonald’s, maybe?).

Gordon Adams is totally wrong. He’s lying. And it’s easy to see why. He’s a former official of an Administration which implemented deep, damaging defense cuts. He’s now trying to justify these cuts as well as those that are incoming, again trying to lull the American people into a false sense of security. He has no credibility whatsoever.


One thought on “Rebuttal of Gordon Adams’s litany of lies”

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