In his book, “The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt”, pollster Scott Rasmussen has written an essay on defense spending which is full of blatant lies and ignorant proposals which the American people and American policymakers would be wise to reject. Here’s a rebuttal of these lies and ignorant proposals (which are summarized here instead of quoting them fully; you can read Rasmussen’s entire garbage here, if you must).
1) The wishes of the American people, expressed through polling, should be the final word on the matter of defense spending. “This important realignment would put us in a better position to deal with the serious economic challenges facing the nation and reaffirm the bedrock American notion that governments derive their only just authority from the consent of the governed.”
No, they shouldn’t be. Although the Founding Fathers recognized that “the people are the fountain of all legitimate authority”, they nevertheless opposed giving the people a direct voice in governing the country and despised democracy. They created a CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC, not a democracy. In America, politicians are supposed to do what the Constitution tells them to do – not the people.
The Constitution makes it clear that providing for the common defense is the #1 Constitutional DUTY of the federal government. Thus, cutting defense so deeply that the military is unable to defend America is a dereliction of that duty.
Still, what level of defense spending is necessary to protect America? The Constitution doesn’t say, and on such issues, politicians are to make decisions according to facts and their own best judgment, NOT listen to mobs. For the facts, see here.
Which brings me to Rasmussen’s blatant lie that:
2) Defense spending should be cut down to $420 bn and freezed there except for inflation and population growth.
Yet, such tiny amount would be woefully inadequate to defend even America itself, not to mention its treaty allies, despite Rasmussen’s false claim that “Even with all these reductions, the U.S. would enjoy an unmatched capability in military strength and technology.” With such deep cuts – to the tune of $115 bn per year – the DOD could not afford enough ships, aircraft, missiles, ground vehicles, other weapons, and troops to defend even the US itself, with its long land borders with two countries, a large territory, a large populace of 308 mn people, a large coastline (including two long ocean coasts and the Gulf Coast), the airspace above it, or the world’s sealanes, through which the vast majority of America’s exports and imports go and which need to be protected with a large and strong navy.
Providing for America’s defense needs alone – to say nothing of America’s allies – requires, among other things:
- Providing air superiority to control the airspace over America itself (and Canada), which requires a large number of advanced 5th generation aircraft to defeat incoming enemy aircraft (including bombers and their escort fighters);
- Providing a large ground army to protect America’s land borders, or at least, the long border with Mexico, where a full-scale war with drug cartels is already ongoing (don’t take my word for it – visit Arizona);
- Patrolling America’s long coasts: the two vast ocean costs and the Gulf Coast (where the Russians sometimes sent Akula class subs), and protecting the undersea resources and fishing areas in US territorial waters;
- Providing a large, modern, survivable nuclear deterrent (which requires a large, survivable, modern nuclear triad and a large nuclear stockpile);
- Providing a multi-layered missile defense system to protect the homeland;
- Providing the human, space-, air-, sea-, and ground-based intelligence capabilities to collect all pertinent intel data about America’s enemies and making informed decisions about national security issues;
- Providing the administrative support required;
- Providing the healthcare, retirement, housing, and family support programs for the military’s members;
- Providing a military judicial system; and
- Other national security requirements.
Rasmussen is merely trying to lull the American people into a false sense of security. His claim that:
“it is possible to develop a popular 21st-century defense strategy that will support the troops and protect the nation while reducing annual military spending by hundreds of billions of dollars”
is a blatant lie designed to lull people into a false sense of security.
Such a large country and population cannot be defended on the cheap, with a small budget such as $420 bn, and a significantly reduced military. Therefore, contrary to Scott Rasmussen’s pious denials that America would be secure and his policies amount to a “Protect America First” strategy, they actually amount to “Protect No One, Not Even America”. They would totally gut the military. That is a fact.
3) Defense and veterans’ affairs spending was $350 bn in FY2001 in real terms. It should return to that level plus inflation and population growth. “Some might balk at setting targets for defense spending and then expecting the military to fit within those parameters, but that’s exactly what Dwight Eisenhower did in the 1950s.”
But defense spending was not $350 bn in FY2001. It was actually $390 bn. Since then, the base defense budget has grown by only 36% – to $529 bn – while the total military budget, including war spending, has grown to $645 bn – by 65%, which may seem staggering, but it happened over ELEVEN fiscal years and is far less than the 82% Rasmussen claims. Moreover, by Rasmussen’s own admission, adjusted for inflation and population growth, FY2001 defense+veterans spending would be $481 bn today.
But most importantly, in FY2001, defense spending was at a historic low – at just $390 bn in today’s money, or $291.1 bn in then-year dollars – and at 3% of GDP was at its lowest since FY1940. At that time, the military was completely gutted (according to Clinton’s own Joint Chiefs) after 12 years of incessant defense cuts. That is nothing to emulate and is NOT a defense spending level worth returning to.
Dwight Eisenhower, to my knowledge, did NOT impose arbitrary figures or limits on defense budgets – instead, he reviewed them and eliminated from them what he deemed unnecessary or possible to do more efficiently. Tying defense spending to arbitrary numbers is reckless, irresponsible, and disastrous for national security, for these reasons.
4) “In 2010 the federal government spent more than $875 billion on national defense and veterans’ affairs, around one-fourth of the federal budget.”
That claim is a blatant lie, like other of Rasmussen’s claims. The requested total military budget for FY2010 was $664 bn in then-year dollars: $534 bn as a base defense budget and $130 bn for the GWOT. VA requested a budget of $53 bn. That totals just $717 bn – well short of the $875 bn Rasmussen claims, and just 19.96% of the President’s FY2010 budget request ($3.591T) – far short of the 1/4th Rasmussen claims.
5) “Today we face no rival superpower with massive military capabilities and aggressive ambitions. Threats of terrorism and cyberwarfare are real but stem mostly from small cells, rather than large blocs of countries.”
That is also a blatant lie. Today the US faces not one, but TWO rival superpowers with massive military capabilities and very aggressive ambitions. China is increasing its military budget by double-digits every year and has a military significantly larger in size, and equal to or superior than the US military in some capabilities. It now has 3,000 nuclear warheads, mostly hidden securely in underground tunnels, a growing fleet of MIRVed ICBMs and SLBMs, a growing navy (including its sub fleet), and a nascent carrier fleet. It claims the entire South China Sea as its internal lake, threatens America’s allies there, overtly wants to kick the US out of Asia, and has top generals claiming that war with the US is “inevitable”.
Russia is resurgent and is dramatically increasing its defense spending and weapon orders. It is now growing its nuclear arsenal while America is unilaterally cutting its own, and has a massive lead over the US in tactical nukes. It has dozens of nuclear submarines, including 14 SSBNs, and almost 400 ICBMs. Its President is overtly hostile to the US. Its subs have prowled the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Atlantic undetected, and its bombers have flown into California’s airspace and near Alaska in exercises on a scale not seen since the Cold War. (Failing to notify the US of these exercises was a violation of the New START, BTW.)
On top of that, the US has to deter North Korea, which, with its ICBMs and nuclear weapons, is a direct threat to the US, and Iran, which is becoming one and is building an IRBM base in Venezuela. Cyberwarfare hardly stems only from small cells; its master practitioners are actually China and Russia. A few crazy hackers will never be able to do the damage that Chinese or Russian government hackers can and have done. Likewise, terrorism is seldom stateless; it is usually sponsored by countries, and Iran is the largest world sponsor of terrorism today.
6) There are only 12 countries that the American people are willing to defend, so we should dump most (or all) of our allies and defend only America itself. That alone would allow for a dramatic reduction of the military and thus its cost.
Those are also blatant lies – and a lousy policy proposal. The US is not a democracy, and America’s allies deserve to be defended. Their security and America’s are indivisible. If they are not safe, America won’t be safe. It’s ludicrous to assume that an attack on France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, or Saudi Arabia would have no economic or security repercussions for the US. Furthermore, dumping loyal allies such as South Korea, Japan, and Poland (Rasmussen mentions the latter two as countries Americans are allegedly unwilling to defend) would be both foolhardy and immoral, just as it is in personal relations. (The US has, twice in its history, dumped Poland to appease Moscow, with disastrous results for both America and Poland both times.)
But even if the US were to dump all of its allies, that would STILL need a military and a defense budget as large as it is today, not just because of the threat that China, Russia, and others pose, but also because of its large territory, coastlines, and population to defend, not to mention the world’s sealanes, on which the US economy is totally dependent. Which brings me to Rasmussen’s next lie:
7) The US can afford to dramatically cut its navy, including the number of carriers, submarines, surface combatants, and sailors. “A Protect America First strategy would concentrate fleets closer to home and reduce the number of aircraft carriers, airplanes, submarines, support staff, and sailors. All of these changes would reduce procurement budgets because the military wouldn’t need as many new weapons, ships, and aircraft each year. Even with all these reductions, the U.S. would enjoy an unmatched capability in military strength and technology.”
Again, those are lousy policy proposals and blatant lies designed to lull Americans into a false sense of security.
Not only does the US face the task of defending its own territory, population, and coastline – a big task by itself, requiring a VERY large navy – it also needs to protect the world’s sealanes to keep them open, because the US economy is totally dependent on them (remember, the vast majority of US exports and imports are with overseas countries and come by sea).
Just for the purposes of America’s self-defense and backing up American diplomacy, two independent panels – the Hadley-Perry panel and the CNAS – have found that the USN needs 346 ships, a far cry from today’s ~285.
But – as Rasmussen himself admits – there are 12 countries that Americans – even under his polling (which may or may not accurately reflect public opinion) – want to defend, and almost half – 49% – want the US to remain in NATO. Defending those 12 allied countries that Americans deem worth protecting – almost all of them are overseas – and remaining in NATO require an even larger Navy. So the USN needs far more ships and aircraft than it has today, not fewer. So Rasmussen’s claim that the US can safely cut its Navy deeply and still be superior to others is completely false.
As this graph from the Defending Our Defenders website shows, the Navy is currently able to meet only 59% of Combatant Commanders’ demands. USN officials say that the Navy can currently supply only 61% of their requests for submarines. A dramatically reduced Navy would be able to supply even less, even with a significantly reduced mission. It would be even more inadequate than today’s Navy.
The deep cuts in force structure, procurement programs, and personnel that Rasmussen proposes would leave the military totally unable to deter Russia, China, or even Iran and North Korea, thus fatally jeopardizing America’s security. That is completely unacceptable.
8) “Three out of four Americans believe U.S. troops should never be deployed for military action overseas unless vital national security interests are at stake. Yet the last several presidents have adopted far less restrictive criteria for sending troops abroad.”
Again, this is untrue. Under President Bush I, the US participated only in Desert Shield/Storm and (after reluctance) in Somalia, from which Clinton withdrew US troops. Clinton sent troops only on smaller-scale missions to Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as bombing Iraq in 1998 (on his nat-sec team’s and America’s allies’ advice). President Bush committed the US only to Afghanistan (in response to 9/11) and Iraq. President Obama has withdrawn from Iraq, is doing the same in Afghanistan, but engaged the US in Libya. Still, this is hardly a “policing the world” policy.
9) “just 33 percent recognize that Washington spends roughly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.”
Again, that is a blatant lie. America’s total military spending, according to SIPRI, amounts to just 41% of the world total, and that is even if you accept SIPRI’s woefully understated figures for Russia and China. Those figures also don’t account for the large PPP differences between the US and these countries, nor for the fact that a large part of their military expenditures is – unlike in America – hidden off their militaries’ official budgets. For example, in Russia, ministries other than the MOD buy weapons and other goods and give them as “free goods” to the MOD; in China, infrastructure and personnel costs are largely borne by provincial governments, not the PLA (many other Chinese military expenditures are also hidden off the PLA’s budget).
Rasmussen also falsely claims that the US spends 5 times more on the military than China. Again, not true. The PLA’s budget is estimated by SIPRI to be $143 bn, but the DOD estimates it to be in the $160-250 bn range. Take the bottom estimate, multiply that by 5, and you get $800 bn – far more than the US actually spends on the military annually ($645 bn). So Rasmussen’s claim is utterly false.
10) “Military spending has grown disproportionately compared to Americans’ own priorities, dwarfing other countries in ways that could soon make taxpayers blink.”
Also utterly false! Military spending has grown by 65% (base defense spending by only 36%) from the record low ebb of FY2001; and by Rasmussen’s own admission, the American people are willing to pay as much for defense as necessary. The current base defense budget is the minimum necessary.
Americans’ priorities? What about Constitutional priorities? Per the Constitution, defense is to be the federal government’s #1 priority; yet, it is a less-than-17% portion of the federal budget today. Since FY2001, defense spending has barely recovered from the disastrous defense cuts of the 1990s, NOT grown disproportionately. 36% growth over 11 years is meagre, and even 65% growth over 11 years isn’t excessive.
11) “Consider: the United States spends more than $2,500 per person on national defense; Russia and our NATO allies each spend about one-fifth that amount, at a time when only 46 percent of Americans have a favorable view of NATO. In the aggregate, while the U.S. is spending close to $900 billion a year on the military and veterans’ affairs, China is coughing up less than $200 billion.”
That is also utterly false. The entire US military budget (and no, Rasmussen’s utterly false figures are not credible) amounts to just $2,094 per person (SIPRI says $2,141 per capita). And no, the US doesn’t spend “close to $900 bn a year on the military and veterans’ affairs”, as proven above. Not even close. These, and other comparisons of America’s and other countries’ military budgets made by Rasmussen, are completely irrelevant for the reasons stated in #9. They tell us nothing about how much America needs to spend on defense; that can be done only through an honest assessment of America’s enemies’ capabilities and intent – which Rasmussen (and other defense cutters) have utterly failed to do, instead substituting lies, straw-man arguments, and empty promises of security for such assessment.
12) “Following the logic of the public’s strategic preferences would lead to tremendous savings on defense.
Aligning U.S. military strategy with public opinion would save trillions of dollars during the coming decade and dramatically reduce the debt burden we are imposing on future generations.”
That is a blatant lie. Even eliminating the US military budget ($645 bn) entirely would not even halve the budget deficit (which is over $1.3 trillion per year), and any savings would be eaten away in a few years by rapidly rising entitlement spending, which is growing on autopilot. As the Heritage Foundation’s research has proven, eliminating military spending entirely would not even make a dent in the deficit, and the debt would still be growing rapidly.
The ONLY way to balance the budget and reduce the debt is to significantly reform (or better yet, slowly phase out) entitlements.
12) “A Protect America First policy would mean returning to the more restrained military philosophies of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Those presidents did not hesitate to use force, but they had a more limited definition of when it was appropriate: only when vital U.S. interests were at stake.”
Not a lie here, but a straw-man argument and a huge omission. Yes, Reagan believed that, but he also believed that the US needs to maintain THE strongest military in the world by far. And because he rebuilt the military, the US seldom needed to really fight during his tenure. It won without fighting. If the US were to adopt Rasmussen’s defense cuts proposals, the military would be gutted, which would guarantee war – and large casualties for the US. Vide WW2.
Scott Rasmussen’s claims are blatant lies. The US is NOT spending 82% more on the military than in FY2001; the US is, despite his denials, facing two peer competitors whose capabilities are growing fast and their appetite even faster; adopting an isolationist/noninterventionist posture would NOT allow for deep defense cuts; and such cuts would utterly gut the military, making it incapable of defending even America itself, so his “strategy” (it isn’t actually a strategy, but rather a series of bad policy proposals) should instead be called the “Protect No One Strategy”.
Equally foolish is his premise that policies, including defense spending, should be based on voters’ wishes. America is not a democracy; it is a Constitutional Republic. Where the Constitution doesn’t dictate a certain course, politicians are to make decisions based on facts and their own judgment, NOT wishes of the mob, especially given that today’s Americans are the worst-educated and most ignorant generations ever. According to this book, “Only 2 of 5 voters can name the three branches of the federal government. And 49 percent of Americans think the president has the authority to suspend the Constitution.”
Scott Rasmussen’s lies, empty assurances, and foolish policy proposals should be rejected entirely.