What the heck is conservativehq.com talking about?

As Washington gears up for defense sequestration – to which there seems to be no solution in sight – Conservativehq.com is spreading misinformation and libertarian propaganda.

Take, for example, this ridiculous blogpost/article of theirs posted on their website on August 8th:

“It is no secret many conservatives, especially those committed to a strong national defense, believe that the Pentagon’s budget could be cut – if only Congress and the Obama administration would stop putting things that have nothing to do with protecting the nation in the defense budget.”

This is utterly false. Firstly, there is no one who is seriously committed to a strong national defense, and very few conservatives, who seriously believes that the defense budget can be significantly cut without serious impact on national security. And that is a fact. Furthermore, a true conservative opposes any significant defense cuts because of the fact that they would weaken the military. In order to be conservative, you HAVE TO oppose significant defense cuts.

Moreover “things that have nothing to do with protecting the nation” are only in small number in, and amount for only a tiny portion of, the defense budget. Yes, these things unrelated to defense (such as “green energy projects”, which the ConservativeHQ article specifically and rightly denounces) are wasteful, but they are usually imposed on the military by civilian politicians and, most importantly, even if totalled up they still amount to a small portion of the defense budget.

The overwhelming majority of the DOD budget pays for programs that are truly related to national defense: salaries, benefits, and HC programs for the troops; their training; their bases and housing; the maintenance of their existing equipment and bases; military construction; and the development and acquisition of new equipment.

There is some waste in the defense budget, but not much, and clearly not enough to pay for the $487 bn defense cuts mandated by the First Tier of the Budget Control Act – let alone its sequester mechanism, which would cut another $600 bn out of the defense budget.

Anyone who tells you that the DOD can absorb such cuts without dramatically weakening the US military is either badly misinformed or deliberately lying. He has succumbed to either wishful thinking or deliberately misleading propaganda. Cuts of this depth cannot be made without gutting the military.

So the general answer to CHQ’s general thesis, “that defense spending can generally be cut”, is “yes, in theory, ANYTHING can be cut and ANYTHING can be done, but not without consequences.” And significant cuts to the defense budget cannot be made without weakening the military and undermining national security. There isn’t that much waste in the defense budget.

Moreover, the defense budget has already been cut deeply enough (and too deeply, in my opinion): by $920 bn since Obama took office. The DOD has already given up over 50 crucial weapon programs, $178 bn in efficiencies, and $487 bn over the next decade under the First Tier of the BCA. Further cuts cannot be made without risking national security. To borrow words from Ronald Reagan, “the defense budget before Congress has been trimmed to the limits of safety.” Yet, ConservativeHQ.com has conveniently omitted that fact. It also says (this time correctly) that the waste includes:

“This includes such projects such as the one recently announced by the Obama White House mandating that U.S. Army coordinate spending $7 billion with green energy firms to increase its use of renewable energy.”

This is true, but $7 bn (over a few years, not in one year) is a tiny sum compared to the budget cuts the DOD has been subjected to and is scheduled to undergo. It’s a drop in the bucked compared to the $487 bn (or $1.087 trillion, if sequestration goes through) budget cuts the DOD will have to do over the next 10 years.

Moreover, Republicans sitting on the House and Armed Services Committee, including Sens. Jim Inhofe and John McCain, have already ensured that the NDAA bill reported by both committees include language banning the expenditure of taxpayers’ money on green boondoggles such as “green” fuels for aircraft and ships. So it’s already a done deal. The full House has already passed such language, and the Senate is unlikely to strip it out of the SASC’s report.

Moreover, ConservativeHQ falsely claims that:

“The Pentagon budget is chock full of politically motivated earmarks for projects the military says it doesn’t need, green energy and other boondoggles that actually raise the cost of defending the nation and the kind of revolving door crony capitalism that comes from insiders moving smoothly between offices in the E Ring and corner suites at the big defense contractors.”

This is untrue. It’s a huge exaggeration. The DOD budget is NOT “chock full” of politically motivated earmarks, green boondoggles, and “revolving donor crony capitalism”. Moreover, because the government is required to be neutral in contracting, and because contracts are overseen and audited by the GAO, the DOD awards them on the basis of who offers the most value for the least cost, NOT on the basis of favoritism for this or that defense contractor, so the accusation that the DOD budget is “chock full” of payoffs to “defense contractors is a blatant, slanderous lie for which ConservativeHQ should apologize and be held accountable for.

Likewise, the claim that the defense budget is “chock full” of earmarks for projects that the military says it doesn’t need is also false (it’s a huge exaggeration), and just because the military (which is usually right but not infallible) says it doesn’t want something doesn’t mean it doesn’t need it. It sometimes get it wrong, and it is RIGHT for Congress to give the military a weapon or other thing if the Congress honestly believes the DOD needs it.

For example, in the 1980s, the Congress bought additional F-117s for the Air Force, even though the USAF wanted to terminate purchases of the aircraft. Likewise, after 9/11, the Congress ordered the DOD to arm Predator drones, even though it didn’t want to. But both decisions turned out to be 100% right in 20/20 hindsight.

In fact, it is the Congress’ Constitutional responsibility, not that of the DOD, to ensure that the military is fully resourced and well-equipped – and NOT to add pork or other wasteful expenditures to the defense budget.

In short, ConservativeHQ’s claims on this subject are all either outright false or vastly exaggerated. But the most important lesson here is that, in theory, you can cut anything, you can’t cut defense spending without consequences – and you cannot make deep defense cuts without seriously weakening the military and jeopardizing national security. Those who refuse to recognize this fact live in la-la-land.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s