The defense cuts scheduled of today have sometimes been compared to those of the 1970s. This is not a valid comparison; the defense cuts currently scheduled by the BCA and those that will result from withdrawal from Afghanistan will, if implemented, be deeper than those of the 1970s and the 1990s, and be the deepest since the end of the Korean War. Moreover, the cuts of the 70s and the 90s were phased in over more than a decade; the sequester would require an immediate cut to $472 bn in FY2013, down from $531 bn in FY2012.
But nonetheless, there are many similarities between them.
The defense gutting of the 1970s’ actually started in FY1970, while almost 550,000 American troops were still in harms’ way in Vietnam. Congress continually cut the defense budget, including appropriations for the Vietnam War and aid for South Vietnam. This, according to President Nixon (as interviewed by Monica Crowley) made it impossible for America to win what Nixon called an otherwise winnable war. It also gutted the military so badly that by the end of the 70s the Soviet Union achieved military superiority over the US. The only reason why it didn’t launch a full-scale attack on the West was because Soviet leaders made the huge strategic blunder of invading Afghanistan and increasing aid to client states instead of focusing on Europe. Soviet leaders thought that the balance of power had shifted irrevocably in their favor, so if that was the case, Europe could wait.
The Congress was, during that time, controlled by the Democrats, and would remain that way until 1981, when Republicans won the Senate. These Democrats were all too eager to cut America’s defense (just as today’s Democrats are). Even when President Nixon asked for a larger defense budget, they refused.
The media, the public, and throughout most of that time, the White House were preoccupied with the Watergate scandal, the energy crisis, the stagnant economy, and rampant inflation. Defense was an afterthought. The same can be said today: defense issues are seldom discussed (and never in a positive light) on any non-conservative media outlet, and even conservative outlets other than Fox News devote little time to it. Besides, conservative outlets like Fox News and HE are viewed, listened to, and read almost exclusively by conservatives, not liberals or independents/moderates. Those people continue to watch CNN, ABC, CBS, and MSNBC, which continually spew anti-defense leftist propaganda like this.
There are several differences, however:
- As stated above, the defense cuts currently scheduled by the BCA and those that will result from withdrawal from Afghanistan will, if implemented, be deeper than those of the 1970s and the 1990s, and be the deepest since the end of the Korean War.
- Moreover, the cuts of the 70s and the 90s were phased in over more than a decade; the sequester would require an immediate cut to $472 bn in FY2013, down from $531 bn in FY2012.
- A strident anti-defense liberal by the name of Barack Obama, not Richard Nixon, is President. Obama is more like a clone of Jimmy Carter.
- The US is now facing two, not one, hostile peer competitors arming themselves to the teeth: Russia and China.
- The biggest cuts – those mandated by the sequester – are scheduled to occur automatically as part of a general policy (debt ceiling statute), and as a result of events unrelated to, and not caused by, the DOD or defense spending: namely, the debt ceiling hike, the deal that allowed this hike to occur, and the failure of the “Super Committee” to agree on anything. As a result, the sequester will automatically kick in (on autopilot) and cut $600 bn out of the defense budget on top of the $487 bn cuts mandated by the first tier of the BCA and on top of all defense cuts already administered or scheduled.
- The sequester was created by the Democrats in order to have a political weapon to coerce Republicans into agreeing to massive tax hikes. It was always designed to be nothing more than that. The Democrats designed it to force Republicans to choose between massive tax hikes and massive defense cuts, knowing full well that Republicans hate both. And amazingly, dumb Republican leaders, including John Boehner and Eric Cantor, agreed to that deal, even though Republicans were the only ones to have anything to lose.
- President Obama and the Democrats have now embraced the sequester for a different, but also useful (for them) purpose: to achieve another goal of theirs, which is to gut defense with deep cuts. They have to do this through the sequester because they know they could never get away with such deep cuts if done through the regular Congressional process; even with the media protecting them at every turn, they could not hide the fact that this is a deep cut, and the public would be opposed. But with the sequester, which is a mechanism of automatic cuts resulting from the failure of the Super Committee, and with the sequester being (falsely) hailed as a tool to impose “budgetary discipline” on the Congress and to enact “real spending cuts”, it’s easy to mislead the American public.
- There is a small, but vocal and vociferous group of liberal Republicans who pretend to be “conservatives” (and whom the Heritage Foundation naively embraces as such) who support massive defense cuts, including sequestration, and oppose any efforts to cancel it, even with corresponding spending cuts elsewhere.
- Defense spending is already at a lower level than the one at which it was when the 1970s’ defense cuts started (or ended). Military spending amounted to 8.7% of GDP in FY1969 and 4.6% of GDP in FY1980. Today it’s 4.41% of GDP (the core defense budget is just 3.63% of GDP).
So in away, it’s the 1970s all over again, but there are also many differences. Today’s defense cuts are even much worse.