Austin Wright proves he knows nothing about defense issues

The far-left Politico magazine’s defense issues correspondent, Austin Wright, has proven that he knows absolutely nothing about these issues. In other words, he’s just another leftist political hack blathering nonsense about issues he knows nothing about.

He has demonstrated that with his most recent “article”, in which he slanders Mitt Romney’s running mate, House Budget Cmte. Chairman Paul Ryan, for proposing a budget blueprint which, according to Wright, gave Ryan

“a starring role in the Republican effort to fence off the defense budget, shielding the Pentagon from spending cuts while pushing reductions in just about everything else.”

But that claim is completely false, and is just a part of the left’s ongoing attempt to portray Republicans (including Ryans) as cruel barbarians who want to “shield the Pentagon from spending cuts while pushing reductions in just about everything else.” Leaving aside the fact that defense is the #1 Constitutional duty of the federal government and was clearly considered that by the Nation’s Founders, let’s remember two facts:

1) The Ryan budget would not completely shield the DOD from spending cuts. It would cancel sequestration but retain, more or less, the cuts mandated by the First Tier of the BCA ($487 bn). Even under the Ryan budget, the DOD would have to make tough choices and tradeoffs, as it has had to do for the last 3.5 years.

2) The DOD is the ONLY government agency or program to have contributed ANYTHING meaningful to deficit reduction so far. Since 2009, it has contributed $920 bn in deficit reduction. It’s now time for other government agencies to tighten their belts and for the media to stop demanding that the DOD give up more while other agencies are not required to gave up anything. The Ryan budget would, if implemented, represent the first time that the DOS, the DHS, the DOE, and other non-DOD agencies would have to make any significant spending cuts.

Furthermore, Wright claims that:

“But the narrative of Ryan as a full-fledged defense hawk doesn’t quite add up, critics say.

That’s because support for the country’s vast national security apparatus isn’t just contained in the defense budget. The State Department, for instance, is responsible for carrying out the ongoing American mission in Iraq. The Energy Department, meanwhile, plays a major role in maintaining the nuclear arsenal. And the Department of Homeland Security oversees the Coast Guard and protects the nation’s borders.

Each of these departments would face sharp cuts under Ryan’s plan to reduce discretionary spending as a percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product. And this year’s House appropriations bills — crafted to line up with Ryan’s budget proposal — would set funding for these agencies below the levels requested by the White House.”

Leaving aside the fact that comparing the roles played by these agencies to the DOD’s national defense mission is absurd, the fact is that the Ryan plan would hardly impose “sharp cuts” on them, and this year’s House Approps bills would NOT require these agencies to make deep budget cuts. True, they would receive less than what the President requested, but only slight less. Let’s go into the details. I’m a numbers guy, so let’s look at the numbers and see if House Appropriatiors have really proposed draconian cuts in these agencies’ budgets or not.

The Energy Department: Would receive a budget of $26.3 bn in FY2013, $265 mn less than last year and $1.8 bn below the President’s request. Note that while it may seem a lot less than what the President requested, the vast majority of these cuts are in non-national-security accounts. The bill would provide $11.3 for “nuclear security” programs, including $1.1 bn for Naval Nuclear Reactors, $2.3 bn for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation programs, and most importantly, $7.6 bn for nuclear arsenal and infrastructure modernization – the same as the President’s request. See here.

State and Foreign Operations: Would receive a total of $40.1 bn, or $2 bn (5%) less than in FY2012 – hardly a draconian cut. The majority of cuts are in foreign aid programs, most of which are squandered by their recipients. The Appropriatiors proposed $7.3 bn for International Security ($632 mn below the President’s request); $17.2 bn for Bilateral Assistance ($3 bn below the President’s request): $2.2 bn for Multilateral Assistance ($715 mn below the President’s request); and $1.2 bn for USAID, $252.5 mn below the President’s request. Also, according to the House Approps Committee, “The bill contains a total of $12.9 billion in discretionary funding for operational costs of the State Department and related agencies – a decrease of $433 million below last year’s level and $1.5 billion below the President’s request.” These are hardly draconian reductions (especially compared to the over $1 trillion in REAL spending cuts that the DOD faces over the next decade, including $66 bn in FY2013 alone), and they were all made in programs where the US could spend less – in lavish foreign aid and DOS bureaucracy programs. See here.

Yet, Wright apparently believes that a cut of $400 mn or $700 mn below the President’s request is draconian if made on the budget of an agency other than the DOD. He complains that:

“The White House, for instance, requested $39.5 billion for homeland security over the next fiscal year, according to numbers compiled by the House Appropriations Committee’s Democratic staff. But the House appropriations bill would provide $39.1 billion.

And for military construction and veterans programs, the White House requested $72.4 billion. The House appropriations bill would provide $71.7 billion.

These discrepancies could add up to major effects for the Pentagon and the defense industry.”

While these numbers are correct, whining about such tiny differences between the President’s request and the Approps bills passed by the House is ridiculous and only exposes Wright’s ignorance. Is it really a disaster that the DHS bureaucracy – the biggest bureaucracy in the US, which is more interested in spying on innocent Americans and harrassing airplane passengers than fighting terrorists and illegal aliens – will have a budget $400 mn smaller than the President requested?

And is a $0.7 bn reduction from the President’s military construction and veterans’ affairs request draconian, given the $1 trillion in real spending cuts that the DOD is facing?

And maybe, just maybe, the House has cut back on unneeded programs, or ones that could be done more efficiently?

It is clear that Wright has never bothered to even consider these questions, but that he’s quick to label anyone who wants to stop sequestration as wanting to protect the DOD from ANY spending cuts and “fencing off” its budget, which is a blatant lie.

But let’s review the Approps bills for these agencies passed by the House App Committee to see what was cut from them:

The Homeland Security Bill:

Critical Security Operations and Programs – The bill prioritizes funding for frontline security operations by continuing the highest levels in history for Border Patrol agents, CBP Officers, ICE agents, and ICE detention beds. The bill also provides funding for all operational, intelligence, threat-targeting activities, and the acquisition of essential tactical assets and equipment for CBP, Secret Service, and the Coast Guard.

FEMA– The bill fully funds FEMA’s stated requirement for disaster relief. The legislation also recommends $2.8 billion – an increase of over $400 million compared to fiscal year 2012 – for FEMA First Responder Grants, including $1.8 billion for State and Local Grants. The committee continues reforms to consolidate grant programs into a streamlined fund allocated based on common-sense conditions, such as risk to communities. The bill provides $670 million – the amount requested – for Assistance to Firefighter Grants and $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

Customs and Border Protection – The bill contains $10.2 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) an increase of $77 million above the President’s request and $9.4 million above last year’s level, when adjusted for proposed transfers and realignments.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement – The bill provides $5.5 billion for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – an increase of $141.6 million above the President’s request and $76.8 million below last year’s level. The bill denies many of the steep cuts to ICE requested in the President’s budget…

Coast Guard – The bill contains $10 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard – an increase of $211.7 million above the President’s request and $63 million below last year’s level. The bill sustains military pay and allowances, and reverses cuts in the President’s request that would have curtailed important Coast Guard operations. Targeted funding is also provided to help the Coast Guard meet its mission requirements, including: funding for the 6thNational Security Cutter (NSC) vessel and long lead-time materials for the 7th NSC; funding for four Fast Response Cutter vessels; funding for two MH-60 helicopters; and funding for one missionized C-130J aircraft.

Secret Service – The bill includes $1.6 billion for the U.S. Secret Service – an increase of $12 million above the President’s request…”

As you can see, the bill would actually authorize MORE than what the President requested for the Coast Guard, the ICE, the CBP, and the Secret Service, and would prevent the deep cuts that the President wanted to make in the first two agencies.

As for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs:

Military Construction – The bill provides $10.6 billion for military construction projects – a decrease of $2.4 billion below last year’s level. Much of the reduction is attributable to the deliberate pause in military construction by the Air Force (-$839 million) and a continued decline in funding requirements for the BRAC 2005 process. The bill also rescinds certain prior-year funds that have not been used.”

Nonetheless, “The bill provides $1.65 billion for military family housing, which fully funds the budget request for family housing construction and operation and maintenance for fiscal year 2013. The funding provided will ensure quality housing is continued for 1,231,044 military families, and also supports privatization efforts of the remaining 7% of Department of Defense family housing inventory.”

Moreover, the bill fully funds the VA budget, at $60.7 bn, $2.3 bn above last year’s level.

So, Austin Wright’s claims have all been debunked. Paul Ryan’s budget and the Approps bill passed by the House, while prioritizing defense (as required by the Constitution), would not shield it completely from cuts or from scrutiny, and they would NOT underfund other national security programs, whether those of the State, Energy, or Homeland Security Departments, nor would they underfund military construction and veterans’ affairs programs.


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