Rebuttal of Rand Paul’s lies about defense spending

On July 31st, in an interview with Bill Hemmer, Sen. Rand Paul delivered an entire litany of blatant lies about defense spending. He falsely claimed that:

  1. Military spending has “doubled” in the last decade.
  2. Everything has to be cut deeply to balance the budget, including military spending. The topline for military spending needs to come down.
  3. If Republicans agree to deep defense cuts, the Democrats “will have to” agree to domestic spending cuts.
  4. “The Pentagon says they’re too big to be audited.”
  5. Sequestration would mean a big one year cut after which defense spending would begin to grow significantly.
  6. We’ll never get to a balanced budget by saying “oh, military spending is sacred, we’re not gonna touch it.”
  7. “We can have  a strong defense and spend less.”

Sadly, Bill Hemmer did not challenge any of his lies, so I shall.

  1. Military spending has NOT doubled during the last decade. Not even close. The total military budget has grown from $390 bn (in today’s money) in FY2001 to $645 bn today. This represents growth of $255 bn, or 65%. Not even close to doubling. The base defense cuts has grown by only 35%, from $390 bn in FY2001 (there was no OCO budget at the time) to $531 bn today. And let’s not forget that defense spending was woefully inadequate in FY2001.
  2. The notion that “everything has to be cut deeply across the board” is both wrong and liberal (not to mention idiotic) and smacks of ignorance and inability to solve problems. A true conservative, a truly fiscally responsible budgeteer does NOT cut everything deeply across the board. He does not cut everything equally deeply without looking at what he’s cutting. That is a dumb, un-conservative, destructive, irresponsible way of budgeting, although it’s the most politically-expedient one. A fiscally responsible budgeteer sets budget priorities, funds them fully, and cuts back on all non-priorities.[1] And no, defense spending does NOT have to be cut deeply to balance the budget, as proven by the budget plans put forward by Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican Study Committee, Sen. Pat Toomey, and Sen. Mike Lee. Moreover, defense spending has ALREADY been cut significantly. Over 50 weapon programs were killed in FY2010 and FY2011, $178 bn in efficiencies and savings was found by Sec. Gates in 2011,  and Sec. Panetta has found another $487 bn in savings and force structure/modernization cuts. These cuts total $920 bn since 2009, and they go beyond fat and into the muscle. Further cuts cannot be made without WEAKENING the military. Furthermore, Sen. Paul’s claim falsely assumes that defense spending hasn’t been cut yet. But it has been. In fact, the DOD is, so far, the ONLY federal agency to contribute anything serious to deficit reduction. It has already contributed $920 bn in savings since 2009 alone. What have other federal agencies done so far? Nothing.
  3. The notion that defense/military spending has to be sacrificed to get Democrats to agree to domestic spending cuts, and the notion that the Dems to agree to such if Republicans were just willing to cut military spending, are utterly false. The Dems would never agree to that, and the sequester is the best evidence of that. A full 60% of its cuts would come out of defense, with the remainder spread among a myriad of domestic discretionary programs. It represents yet another round of defense cuts on top of all those previously mentioned. Yet, the Democrats STILL refuse to agree to any serious cuts in domestic spending – discretionary or nondiscretionary – even though Republicans have agreed to these massive cuts in defense spending. Rand Paul is either amazingly ignorant and naive or deliberately lying.
  4. The Pentagon has NEVER said it is too big to be audited. The DOD has, in fact, repeatedly stated they will be audit-ready by 2017 and ready for an audit of their Statement of Budgetary Resources by 2014. To be able to do that, they have developed the FIAR plan. Sec. Panetta has repeatedly stated the DOD wants to achieve both of these goals.
  5. Sequestration would not allow the DOD to grow significantly in any fiscal year. It would make a HUGE cut in defense spending, down to $469 bn in FY2013, and after that, the defense budget would be growing so slowly that by FY2022 (a full decade from now) it would STILL be below $500 bn (not to mention being deeply below its current level, i.e. $531 bn), as the CBO graph below and this table from the CBO (Table No. 1-4 on page 11 of the report) prove.
  6. No one – not even myself – has said that “military spending is sacred, we’re not gonna touch it.” In fact, Republicans have already agreed to the 50 weapon program closures of FY2010 and FY2011, the Gates Efficiencies Initiative, the New START treaty, and the First Tier cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act. Military spending has NEVER been a sacred cow and has already been scheduled for deep cuts. (By contrast, domestic spending, discretionary and nondiscretionary alike, have been exempted from any serious cuts so far.) What the vast majority of Republicans (as well as many Democrats) are saying is that the sequester’s defense cuts would be way too deep and too disproportionate. (See the second graph.)
  7. It is not possible to cut the defense budget significantly and not weaken the military. It is simply physically impossible. Defense spending does not exist to simply be spent; it pays for the troops’ salaries, HC programs, retirement, training, operations, base infrastructure, equipment, and maintenance of equipment and bases. Any cuts in the defense budget would have to mean cuts in one or more of these categories. The deeper cuts in the topline, the deeper cuts in these categories and thus the more adverse the consequences for national security. No, America cannot cut its defense budget deeply and still have a strong defense.

In short, Sen. Paul’s claims are blatant lies. It is unclear while Bill Hemmer, a staunch supporter of a strong defense and of America’s troops, did not bother to refute his claims. But since he hasn’t done so, I have.

[1] During the interview, Sen. Paul admitted that under the Constitution, the government’s #1 task is to provide for the common defense. So it is ridiculous for him to insist that everything has to be cut deeply without looking at what you’re cutting. Either defense is the #1 priority or it is not.


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