The proponents of deep defense cuts (whom I call “defense cutters” for shorthand) often make ridiculous, false claims and foolish, destructive policy proposals. When I have the time to do so, I refute them thoroughly one-by-one.
In the past, I have done so numerous times. Today, instead of refuting specific lies by specific individuals, however, I will demonstrate a sample of defense cutters’ ridiculous, false claims and their idiotic policy proposals and thus show how they betray their utter ignorance of defense issues by making these claims and proposals. This is especially easy since their claims and proposals are usually similar, if not identical. Their modus operandi is repeating roughly the same lies over and over again, taking cue from Goebbels, who said that a lie repeated 100 times becomes a truth.
Some of their most frequently repeated lies include the following:
1) “The DOD budget is bloated”. But it’s anything but bloated; it amounts to just 4.22% of America’s GDP (which is $15.29 trillion) and less than 17% of the total federal budget; the base defense budget amounts to just 3.47% of GDP and less than 15% of the TFB.
Viewed against the threats facing America, the DOD budget is hardly “bloated”. The US is facing two peer competitors – China and Russia – who are arming themselves with conventional and strategic weapons of increasing capability in increasing numbers, and whose capabilities are, and have long been, underestimated by the US government and “defense cutters”. On top of that, the US is also facing growing threats from Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Hezbollah.
2) “The US military budget is almost as large as the rest of the world’s combined military budgets and 3/4/5 times larger than China’s military budget.” But that is completely false. The PLA’s real budget is estimated by SIPRI to be $143 bn and by the DOD to be anywhere from $160 bn to $250 bn. America’s own FY2012 military budget is $645 bn, a little more than 2 times larger than the $250 bn figure.
Moreover, in China, military infrastructure and personnel costs are largely borne by provincial governments, not the PLA.
Most importantly, there are vast PPP differences between the US and developing countries like China and Russia. $1 can buy much more in China and Russia than in the US.
In any event, comparisons between America’s military budget and those of other countries are utterly meaningless and ridiculous. Other countries don’t have the defense needs or the wealth (let alone the security responsibilities) that America has, nor do they benefit as much as the US doesfrom open markets and open world sealanes.
America’s defense budgets should be determined solely by America’s defense needs, NOT by meaningless comparisons to other countries’ military budgets. Budgetary decisions will be bad – mistaken – if they are not informed decisions, and they can be that way only if they’re made based on the right criteria.
3) “The military budget is really $800bn/$900 bn if you include VA spending.”
But that is a lie. It’s not even close to being true. The total DOD/DOE-Nat-Sec budget is $645 bn; the VA budget is roughly $70 bn, that works out to ca. $715 bn, well short of $800 bn.
4) “If the US stopped defending its allies and started defending America itself, we could defense spending significantly.”
Wrong. Leaving aside the fact that America’s allies are worth defending, that their security is indivisible from America’s, and that dumping them would be immoral, the fact is that even if the US were to defend itself and itself only, it would still need a defense budget of the current size.
The US is a huge country to begin with, with a large territory, a large, 308 million population, two long land borders, two long ocean coastlines plus the Gulf Coast to patrol, a large airspace to patrol and defend, and totally dependent economically on the world’s sealanes, through which the vast majority of America’s exports and imports go – sealanes currently at risk from China, Iran, Somalian pirates, and others. This, by itself, requires a very large military. Then, consider the threats listed above: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Hezbollah.
5) “Let’s cancel the F-35 and replace it with the Super Bug and the F-16.”
Such ludicrous policy proposals only prove the ignorance of those who make them. For reasons stated here, the Super Bug (and the F-16) are decisively inferior to both the F-35 and the aircraft that America’s enemies operate or are developing. Cancelling the F-35 and using these substandard legacy aircraft would render the US military decisively inferior to those of America’s enemies.
6) “Let’s cancel the V-22 and replace it with H-60 and CH-53K helicopters.”
Again, the only thing such proposals prove is the ignorance of those making them. The V-22, for starters, is far superior to (it can e.g. fly twice faster and twice farther than) any helicopter, and is far more survivable, but even moreso when compared to big, fat helos such as the CH-53 and the CH-47 (the “C” before the “H” denotes “cargo” – will anti-defense hacks ever learn that it’s sheer folly to fly CARGO helicopters into combat environments infested with shoulder-launched SAMs?).
Furthermore, the V-22 has been proven in and has performed magnificently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya – three different war theaters. In fact, when an F-15E crashed in Libya, it was a V-22 that rescued its crew. In Iraq, the V-22 got its baptism by fire… in the midst of the fiercest fighting there, in 2007, while President Bush was implementing his troop surge. And it performed brilliantly.
7) “Let’s cancel the next generation bomber because we have the B-1, B-2, and B-52.”
The B-1 and the B-52 have done well, but only in lightly/moderately defended environments and (the B-52) in 1970s vintage air defense system environments in Vietnam when escorted by dozens of fighters, suppression of enemy air defenses (Wild Weasel) aircraft, and jammers. Today, they are useless for operations in anything but the most lightly defended combat theaters, where the enemy is an insurgency or a primitive country unable to contest control of the air, and where air defenses have already been stripped out by other aircraft. For purposes of operations in highly-defended, SAM/AAA/fighter-infested environments like China or Iran, these bombers effectively don’t exist.
The only bomber in US inventory capable of operating there is the B-2 – and the USAF has only 20 of them, which leaves no margin whatsoever for attrition, gives it only a very limited sortie generation/strike performance capability due to tiny numbers, and would have to lead for repetitive tactics.
8) “Let’s cut the Navy’s carrier fleet from today’s 11 ships, because no other country has more than 1.”
But the Navy’s carriers are not designed to fight other carriers – they’re designed to provide massive airpower, especially where the USAF cannot due to a lack or insufficient number of land bases. This fact, and the need for carriers, was best proven in Afghanistan, of all places. The first strike against Afghanistan was delivered by USAF bombers and the Enterprise’s air wing because there were NO land bases available in the nearby area. Only carrier-based aircraft and USAF bombers could attack targets in Afghanistan from the air.
These are just 8 examples. Of course, defense cutters have, over the years, stated many more lies than that. Sadly, I wouldn’t have the time to refute every lie of every defense cutter even if I were to do so 24/7.