An Open Letter to David Koch

In a recent media interview, one of the GOP’s and Mitt Romney’s biggest donors, the lifelong libertarian David Koch, made the following comments:

“As for whether military spending cuts should be on the table, Koch said, “I think to balance the budget, probably every federal department has to take cuts in my opinion. We have to spread it around.”

He stressed, though, that “I’m a big fan of the military” and said “I think we’ve got to preserve our military, no question about it. And I’m not exactly an expert on how much military we need, so I have to yield to [Mitt Romney’s opinion].

“I’m more interested in economic issues than how much military we need,” he added. “But I think we should gradually withdraw from the Middle East, you know, from Afghanistan and Iraq, so I believe in that. But I’m not an expert in that, so my opinion probably doesn’t count for very much.””

Therefore, I have decided to write the following open letter to Mr Koch and publish it here:

“Dear Mr Koch,

I was troubled to read about certain remarks you have made during a recent interview with Politico. Troubling, because it appears someone has badly mislead you on an important issue, which appears to have lead you to support a bad policy.

Specifically, you said that “defense cuts should be on the table” and should be made as a part of the solution to America’s fiscal woes. You did not say what magnitude of defense cuts you support, but your remarks will almost certainly be used by those who favor deep defense spending cuts. (To be fair, you also said you “don’t how how much military we need” and that you’d “yield to Mitt Romney” on that issue.)

As it appears that someone has badly misled you, I’d like to correct the record.

Defense spending, along with the military’s force structure and modernization programs, has already been subjected to numerous cuts since President Obama took office.

Now the defense budget is scheduled to take $550 bn in additional cuts over the next decade ($55 bn every year, as stated by the Budget Control Act); cuts which, if implemented on this or similar scale, will result in woefully inadequate funding for the development and acquisition of new equipment; for the proper maintenance of the equipment the military already has; its operations and training; new military construction needs; Defense Health Programs (cuts on a scale that would break faith with the troops); and the force structure. It would cut the Navy to just 230 ships – well short of the 346 vessels independent analysts say the USN needs – and the Air Force, already flying its smallest and oldest fleet of aircraft ever, will have to cut its fighter and bomber fleets by 1/3 and 2/3s, respectively. Modernization programs, including shipbuilding would be cut or terminated outright across the board. For more on sequestration, please consult this article:

Defense spending is not spent for the sake of spending it. It pays for the assets the DOD military needs to protect America – the equipment, the bases, the development programs, and the troops and their training, operations, and compensation.

When defense spending is cut deeply – as would happen under sequestration and under many proposals circulating in Washington – there isn’t nearly enough funding to pay for these assets, and thus, the DOD can’t have nearly enough of them. As a result, deep defense spending cuts weaken the military and jeopardize national security.

How much defense spending is needed to protect America? This is a multi-million dollar question. According to the Joint Chiefs and the DOD’s current civilian leaders, not less than the amounts authorized by the First Tier of the BCA. That’s how much it would take to execute their current strategy of protecting America and its national interests.

What is clear, in any case, to anyone knowledgeable about defense spending is that with a deeply reduced budget the military will not have the assets, and thus will be unable to, protect America. There will not be enough troops, units, equipment (let alone modern, survivable gear), funding for training and operations, or bases. It’s an unavoidable fact. “Defense on the cheap” is not possible.

America is a large country, with a large population, three long coasts, outlying territories, and wideranging national interests to defend, and its economy is totally dependent on the world’s sealanes, through which the vast majority of America’s exports and imports go.

Protecting them is not possible “on the cheap”, despite what many people may be telling you.

Regarding your proposal to withdraw the US military from the Middle East completely, I consider it to be very risky and unwise. Certainly the US doesn’t want to be seen as “occupying” or “defiling” Arab soil, or to be an easy target for terrorists, but an American military presence there is needed to protect critical sealanes in the area, protect access to natural resources, and keep the balance in the region by preventing any country in that region from becoming its hegemon. UChicago’s Professor John Mearsheimer has devised a proper strategy to achieve that goal, called “offshore balancing”. It calls on the USN and the USAF to keep the balance of power in the Middle East; reliance on them rather than ground troops would simoultaneously allow America to keep a seemingly low, unprominent profile.

Please take the time to acquaint yourself with these issues, Sir. Of course, if you have any questions or would like to hear more, I am available at any time to explain any of these issues in more detail.

Yours sincerely,

Zbigniew Mazurak


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