Rebuttal of Veronique de Rugy’s lies about sequestration

Writing in the NRO’s The Corner blog on September 17th, French libertarian Veronique de Rugy falsely claimed that the scheduled sequestration cuts in America’s defense budget would only be cuts in the rate of growth, and that even under sequestration, defense spending would be growing significantly. She claims that:

“However, when you actually look at what sequestration means, you find that it is mainly a cut to the growth of spending. As I explained in my Washington Examiner piece on Friday, this is certainly true for defense spending.”

To support these false claims, De Rugy fabricated and posted a graph which purports to prove this.

But her claims and her blogpost, including the graph, are blatant lies, clearly designed to mislead.

Firstly, I’ll address the central lie of that screed (titled “Fears Over Sequestration Are Overblown”): that sequestration would be only a cut in the rate of growth.

As this CBO report proves (see Table 1-4 on page 11 of the report), sequestration would actually be a BIG real-term cut in the base defense budget, cutting it down from $535 bn today down to just $469 bn in FY2013. After that, defense spending would not return to current levels for the remainder of the sequestration decade, and probably even longer than that. In FY2022, it would still be just $493 bn, $42 bn less than today.

De Rugy’s graph is also completely false, produced on the basis of utterly false data. Here’s a graph from the CBO itself, from the very same report‘s introductory HTML page, showing the REAL impact of sequestration and proving that sequestration would, in fact, be a deep real-term CUT in defense spending:

So, what of De Rugy’s graph? It’s a total fabrication by VDR herself (it says on the graph itself that it was produced by her) which purports to show that base defense spending and total military spending would experience a sharp uptick with or without sequestration. She claims she based it on OMB historical spending tables, the DOD’s Green Book, this CRS report, and this CBO report, but NONE of these publications deals with future defense spending under sequestration (except the CBO report VDR referred to, which only mentions sequestration on page 74). NONE of them (except, briefly, the CBO report) says what would defense spending levels be under sequestration.

That question was dealt with by the CBO separately, in this report, already cited here, and it is the report that “my” graph shown above came from. And it says defense would be cut to 469 bn in FY2013 and not even approach today’s defense spending level for at least a decade.

Meanwhile, OCO spending is being cut annually and will continue to be cut and eventually vanish after the Afghan war is over.

De Rugy also lied that

“One important factor in weighing the effect of sequestration is that war spending is not capped to meet certain spending levels outlined in the BCA. In other words, Congress can set the level of war spending above and beyond what is needed, if they wanted to do so to offset the impact of the sequester and BCA caps. So while there is uncertainty about the application of the sequester on war spending (seethis article in the Hill), it is guaranteed that there are preemptive measures policymakers can take to limit sequestration’s effect, including propping up war spending to make up for losses in non-war accounts.”

That is factually WRONG (as is the rest of her screed). War (OCO) spending is ALSO subject to sequestration’s caps and would therefore also be cut by the sequester. So no, Congress cannot set war spending levels above what is needed – because war spending is ALSO subject to sequestration’s caps. Ironically, De Rugy cited this article as proof that this issue is “uncertain”.

The converse is the truth: under sequestration, the DOD will have to cut base defense spending even deeper than it would otherwise have to to make up for cuts in war spending, which would make the sequestration’s cuts even more devastating. There are no measures which policymakers can to do “limit” sequestration’s impact.

This is of course to say nothing of the massive defense cuts already administered and scheduled by President Obama, including the weapon program closures of 2009 and 2010, the New START treaty, the Gates’ Efficiencies and Savings Initiative, and the First Tier of BCA-mandated defense cuts ($487 bn over a decade), under which the DOD has already contributed $920 bn in deficit reduction to date, since 2009 alone, while other government agencies and programs have contributed virtually nothing. These pre-sequester defense cuts, by themselves, prove that the DOD has NEVER been off the table, that it has ALWAYS been on the table, and that it has already contributed more than its fair share to deficit reduction.

De Rugy, as a typical libertarian liar, pays only lip service to national security, while making a straw man argument:

“Of course, defense spending is a legitimate role of the federal government and America needs a strong military to defend itself. But that doesn’t mean every dollar spent on defense increases our security and that every cut in defense spending leads to a reduction in security.”

But deep defense spending cuts – and sequestration would be a very deep one – do greatly jeopardize America’s national security by severely weakening the US military. With a deeply reduced defense budget, such as under sequestration, America will NOT have a strong military. (See here.)

Furthermore, De Rugy falsely claims that

“While sequester may pose a management challenge in the first year of implementation, all the alarmist projections exaggerate the impacts of the defense cuts (the same is true for non-defense cuts). Even after sequestration, and adjusted for inflation, defense spending would only revert to its 2007 level in real terms. In fact, after a near doubling in the defense spending in the last decade…”

Those are also blatant lies. As proven in this CBO report, under sequestration, defense spending would be set back by an entire decade, to the lowest level since FY2003 (adjusted for inflation): to just $469 bn. In FY2004, the base defense budget was $473 bn.

By the way, De Rugy is contradicting herself: either sequestration would be a spending cut, and thus revert to a past year’s level, or it wouldn’t. So which is it?

De Rugy’s claim that defense spending “has nearly doubled” in the last decade is also a blatant lie. The base defense budget in FY2001 was $291.1 bn in then-year dollars, or $390 bn in today’s money. Today, the base defense budget is $535 bn and the total military budget is $645 bn, representing growth of 35% and 65%, respectively, since FY2001.

The defense budget has not “nearly doubled” in the last decade. Not even close.

De Rugy further lies (in extremely poor English) that

“it seems that at the core problem the Department of Defense may have is not lack of funding but inability to prioritize.”

In an earlier paragraph, she says that:

“Sequestration isn’t an ideal way to address our spending problems, because it doesn’t allow an agency to think strategically about what to cut.”

But the DOD has already made tough choices and prioritized programs and platforms in its defense cuts mandated by the First Tier of the BCA. Sequestration would be such a deep cut (as proven above and below) that there’s no way you can “prioritize” under it and still have a strong military and a secure country. You can’t make sequestration-sized cuts strategically; these cuts would be so deep that the military would be gutted in any event, because there wouldn’t be nearly enough money to pay for the troops, training, fuel, bases, and equipment needed to defend America and its treaty allies.

Last but certainly not least, while De Rugy dismisses the economic impact of sequestration, she makes little mention of the national-security impact of that disastrous mechanism. That’s because she would have to either blatantly lie again or admit that it would be disastrous. She limits herself to lying that “these claims are sheer exaggeration”; that “While sequester may pose a management challenge in the first year of implementation, all the alarmist projections exaggerate the impacts of the defense cuts (the same is true for non-defense cuts)”; and that “Defense sequester cuts simply do not warrant the fears they have prompted.” But those are also blatant lies.

Sequestration, were it to go through, would force the DOD to:

  • Cancel the F-35 program completely without replacement, and thus betray foreign program partners (including Israel);
  • Cancel all except the most basic upgrades for F-15s and F-16s while cutting the fighter fleet by 35%;
  • Eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad completely while cutting the bomber fleet by 2/3 and cancelling the bomber replacement program (also needed for conventional penetration strike);
  • Delay the SSBN replacement program;
  • Cut the USN’s ship fleet to 230 vessels, the smallest size since 1915, and vastly inadequate for today’s needs (independent studies say the Navy needs 346 ships);
  • Forego the deployment of any missile defense system abroad;
  • Cut the Army to its smallest size since 1940;
  • Cancel virtually all Army modernization programs;
  • Cut the Marines down to just 145,000 personnel (which, according to the USMC’s Commandant, would make the USMC “unable to handle even one major contingency”; in other words, if big trouble flares up, don’t bother calling the Marines);
  • Cutting Israeli cooperative missile defense programs;
  • Cut personnel benefits programs to such depth that it would break faith with them (e.g. massive cuts in DOD health programs and retirement benefits), thus discouraging people from joining the military or reenlisting.

Now, why does this matter? Because those weapon systems, units, and troops are needed, for the reasons stated here.

Rugy’s screed is a litany of blatant lies. Not a single word she has written here is true. Not a single one.

Shame on the pseudoconservative NRO for allowing her to post blatant lies in The Corner.


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