As you know, Dear Readers, sequestration – a tranche of deep, across-the-board defense cuts totalling 600 bn USD – is scheduled to kick in on January 2nd, 2013. If it does, the US military will be gutted.
And yet, a number of liberal and libertarian propagandists, some of whom pretend to be conservatives, are trying to mislead the American people into thinking that deep defense cuts, including sequestration, would not harm the US military or national security. Two of them claimed that in the NYSlimes’ website’s “Room for Debate” section.
Larry Korb of the George-Soros-funded Center for American Progress stated his blatant lies in a post titled “Cuts Would Not Affect Security”. He falsely claims that:
FALSE. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney not want to increase defense spending anywhere close to that level. If it were true – which it isn’t – itwould amount to $620 and $830 bn per year, respectively. Neither of them has ever proposed anything even close to that.
Paul Ryan instead proposes to raise defense spending to $554 bn in FY2013 and modestly increase it thereafter. Mitt Romney wants to increase the base defense budget to just 4% of GDP, which would be $611 bn today (4% out of a GDP of $15.29 trillion). The economy would have to grow at absurd, neckbreacking, Chinese rates of growth every year for the next decade for 4% of GDP to amount to $830 bn. But even if it miraculously grew to $17 trillion during, say, the next 5 years, 4% of such GDP would still equal only $680 bn, far short of $830 bn.
No, Romney does not propose defense spending even close to $8.3 trillion per decade.
“But the United States can afford defense cuts, without undermining national security, for four reasons:
First, the United States has just gone through an enormous defense buildup. The budget increased, in real terms, for an unprecedented 13 straight years between 1998 and 2012. Even during the Reagan buildup, defense spending grew for only four years before dropping back to more sustainable levels.”
FALSE. The defense budget grew in real terms only between FY2001 and FY2011, and now remains stagnant at $530 bn. Base defense spending has grown by only 35% (from $390 bn to $530 bn) since FY2001; total military spending, including war costs, has grown by 65%, still a modest rate considering that it occurred over a decade. During the Reagan years, defense spending grew continually from FY1981 to FY1988, and even then it was an very much affordable levels.
“Second, the cuts being discussed are smaller than they seem. The first $500 billion come from projected growth, so the budget will fall by just $6 billion next year and then grow at about the same pace as inflation. Even with sequestration, defense spending would be brought back only to its 2006 level in real terms — more than we spent on average under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.”
FALSE. Sequestration would, in fact, set defense spending back by an entire decade, to its lowest level since FY2003, as proven by this CBO report (see Table 1-4 on page 11 of the report). After sequestration, the FY2013 defense budget would be slashed to a paltry $469 bn, the lowest level since FY2003 (the FY2004 base defense budget was $473 bn). And under sequestration, after FY2013, defense spending would be growing so slowly, in such a turtle-like manner, that a decade from now, in FY2022, it would still be below $500 bn and well below today’s level of $530 bn. See the graph below.
“Third, ending this indiscriminate growth will force the Pentagon to manage its funds more carefully. Over the past decade, the Pentagon squandered $46 billion on weapons it later canceled, and let half its procurement programs balloon beyond their original budgets.”
FALSE. The defense spending growth seen since FY2001 was not indiscriminate by any honest measure (the base defense budget grew by only 35% over a decade!), and the vast majority of the weapon programs cancelled in the last decade were WRONGLY cancelled and should’ve been continued. Sequestration will do more than just force the DOD to spend wisely – it will leave the DOD with a woefully inadequate budget.
“Finally, we face a world with relatively few major threats. And even with sequestration-size cuts, we would still account for more than 40 percent of the world’s defense spending, and our allies would account for about half of the rest.”
FALSE. America is currently facing a wide range of major threats, including China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and if sequestration goes through, the US military will be utterly unable to handle these threats or even deter an attack on America, because sequestration would, according to Secretary Panetta, require it to:
- Deeply cut funding for training;
- Completely cancel the next-generation fighter and bomber programs, thus leaving the USAF with only 184 stealthy fighters and only 20 stealthy bombers and no ability to generate enough sorties to defeat even a middle-sized enemy;
- Eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad;
- Cut the Army to its lowest size since before WW2;
- Cut the Navy to just 230 ships, fewer than the Russian navy and significantly fewer than the Chinese navy have, and totally inadequate to meet America’s maritime needs;
- Cut the Marine Corps to just 145,000 men and force it to cancel all of its key modernization programs, including the V-22 Osprey, the F-35B JSF, the JLTV, and the new amphibious vehicle, thus making the Marines unable to handle “even one major contingency” according to General Dunford;
- Cut the Air Force, which is already “at the ragged edge”, still further, including cutting its fighter fleet by 1/3 and its already small bomber fleet by 2/3s;
- Deeply cut DOD healthcare programs, thus breaking faith with the troops;
- Gut missile defense programs.
“To be clear, sequestration, with its sudden, indiscriminate cuts, is not the best way to reduce the defense budget. But similarly sized cuts, made carefully and strategically, could reduce our deficit without harming national security.”
FALSE. There is no need to reduce the defense budget, and any cuts of size similar as sequestration would gut the US military because of the simple fact that the overall amount of funding for national defense would be woefully inadequate – not enough money for training, procurement, development, operations, maintenance, personnel, or base infrastructure. If you spare one category of defense spending from cuts, this would mean cutting another category even deeper. A cut to just $469 bn – a woefully inadequate number – would, by necessity, by virtue of the sheer size of such cut, have to mean deep, disastrous cuts in most or all categories of defense spending, thus severely weakening the military. Sec. Panetta’s listing of what he would have to cut under sequestration, reproduced above, illustrate this well. I repeat: any cuts of size similar to sequestration would, by virtue of their sheer size, necessitate deep, damaging cuts in the force structure, weapon arsenals, new weapon programs, troops’ pay and benefits, and/or training, operations, and maintenance. There’s no way to get around that fact.
Korb proposes the following cuts:
“For example, shrinking the size of our nuclear arsenal from the current 5,113 weapons to 311 — a number the Air War College and the School for Advance Air and Space Studies have argued is sufficient for nuclear deterrence — would save $11 billion a year.
Cutting the Navy and Marine Corps variants of the over-budget F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program — in favor of the cheaper yet still effective F/A-18 E/F — and reducing the procurement of the Air Force variant by half would save $28.67 billion through 2017. Terminating the V-22 helicopter, which has long been hampered by cost overruns and technical problems, would save at least $10 billion to $12 billion in the next decade.”
These cuts would be HUGELY destructive to America’s national security. Not just marginally, but hugely. Cutting the US nuclear arsenal down to just 311 warheads would render it vastly smaller than Russia’s and China’s arsenals, thus inviting a nuclear first strike. Russia has 1,492 deployed and many more nondeployed strategic nuclear warheads, as well as many thousands of tactical nukes. China has up to 3,000 nuclear warheads according to the DOD’s own former nuclear strategist and a former Russian ICBM forces commander. Cutting America’s nuclear arsenal to just 311 warheads would be suicidal.
Moreover, with such a tiny arsenal, America would face its own first-strike dillema – “use them or lose them” – and resolve it by striking first rather than lose them in a disarming Russian or Chinese first strike. Furthermore, further cuts to America’s nuclear deterrent would undermine our allies’ faith in it, thus forcing them to develop their own nuclear weapons and making the proliferation problem much worse.
Cancelling two F-35 variants and cutting the USAF purchase of F-35s by half would also be suicidal, although not with nuclear consequences. It would guarantee that the US would lose air superiority and penetration capability. The F-35 is the only Western stealth fighter in development or production (now that the F-22 has been killed), and its STOVL variant is needed to replace three different Marine aircraft types AND give the Marines a stealthy penetrating platform.
The Super Bug is NOT an alternative to the F-35 and is not effective in anything other than very benign environments where the only opponents are unable to contest control of the airspace. The Super Bug is decisively inferior even to Generation 4+ Russian and Chinese fighters (e.g. the J-10, JF-17, MiG-29SMT, and the various Flanker variants) by all criteria, including top speed, maximum altitude, engine thrust, fuel capacity, payload, radar, thrust/weight ration, and wing loading. It is decisively inferior kinematically, aerodynamically, and by all other criteria to these aircraft – not to mention Russia’s and China’s 5th generation stealth fighters. (The same goes for all other legacy US aircraft.) See here, here, here, here, here, and here. It’s inferior, in some respects, even to China’s 3rd generation J-7 and J-8 fighters. Flying it against enemy fighters would be a death sentence for the pilot flying it. It’s the Super Bug, not the F-35, that should be terminated.
Terminating the F-35 and using the Super Bug instead would relegate Navy and Marine aviation exclusively to counterinsurgency environments where the only opponents are insurgents unable to contest control of the air.
Killing a crucial, superior weapon platform and replacing it with an inferior, substandard weapon – THAT is a real waste of taxpayers’ money.
The proposal to kill the V-22 is just as cretinous. The V-22 is no longer “hampered by cost overruns and technical problems”; those are old problems that have long ago been solved. One V-22 now costs the same as a Super Bug – $67 mn – and has performed brilliantly in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, outperforming all helicopters by a huge margin, as its technical capabilities are decisively superior. It is much faster, longer-ranged, more survivable, and able to cover a much larger area than any helicopter; and it’s much more difficult to shoot down, and much cheaper to operate and maintain, than large, sluggish helos like the Chinook and the Sea/Super Stallion. For more, see here and here.
Most importantly, its primary users, Marine pilots, like it. Just listen to them. And watch this film about how the V-22 proved its mettle, proved itself to be far more capable and useful than any helicopter (its speed and service ceiling really matter in combat zones), and what the Marines say about it. Also listen to USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos, a Naval Aviator by trade, who has strongly praised the V-22 and urged its continued production. (Whom will you believe – a real Marine general or armchair generals?) Also listen to his predecessor, Gen. James Conway.
Last but not least, Korb’s proposals would save only a pittance – $5.734 bn per year on the F-35, $1.2 bn at most on the V-22, $11 bn on the nuclear arsenal, i.e. $17.934 bn per year altogether – nothing even close to paying for cuts as deep as sequestration ($55 bn every year, on top of all defense cuts already implemented or scheduled).
In short, Korb’s claims are all blatant lies, and his proposals, like sequestration, would totally gut the military, while “saving” only a microscopic amount of money.
“The United States could spend considerably less on defense while still effectively managing the threats — and capitalizing on the opportunities — of the current security environment.”
FALSE. The US cannot spend “considerably less on defense while still effectively managing the threats”. For the reasons listed above, in the rebuttal of Korb’s lies, the US cannot deeply cut its defense budget and somehow still magically be able to deter its enemies (let alone defeat them if need be). There wouldn’t be enough money for a sufficient force structure, the troops’ pay and healthcare programs, training, equipment, base infrastructure, housing, and needed operations and maintenance. Deep cuts cannot be made without severe consequences. Moreover, the purpose of defense is to DEFEAT threats, not “manage” them.
“The Budget Control Act necessitates $500 billion in defense reductions across 10 years, and even that would be manageable if the law were amended to give the secretary of defense latitude to choose where to make cuts. Sequestration would return us only to the 2007 level of defense spending, and 2007 was a pretty generous year. Moreover, it will still leave us spending half the entire world’s total.”
FALSE. The BCA’s sequestration provision (I’m assuming that’s what Schake is referring to) requires $550 bn in defense cuts, and such cuts would not be manageable under any circumstances, even if the SECDEF was free in choosing where to make the cuts. Already the first tier of the BCA, $487 bn in cuts, has cut far beyond the fat and into the muscle, forcing the DOD to make large cuts in force structure; cuts on the scale of sequestration would, as noted above, necessitate deep cuts in the number of units, weapon inventories, crucial modernization programs, troop numbers, and funding for training, operations, and maintenance. There’s no way around that fact; people who claim otherwise are either delusional or trying to lull others into a false sense of security.
Sec. Panetta has listed the cuts he’d have to make under sequestration, but budget numbers alone would dictate deep cuts in everything; the SECDEF’s only choice would be where to make the deepest, most devastating cuts. It’s like telling a man he must kill his family and letting him choose whether to do that with a gun, a flamethrower, grenades, or a knife. It’s a silly, ridiculous discussion: “How do I gut America’s defense? By Way A, Way B, or Way C?”
Furthermore, the claim that sequestration would reduce defense only to its 2007 level is patently false (it would actually set defense spending back by an entire decade); the 2007 budget was not generous and was, in fact, inadequate; and the world was far different than it’s now. China and Russia were not nearly as strong, and Iran and North Korea not even nearly as dangerous, as they’re today. Furthermore, it would not leave America “still spending half of the world’s total” – the US already isn’t spending half of the planet’s military budgets, but rather 41% according to SIPRI, and under sequestration, it would spend even less.
“Conservatives, like myself, can and should feel comfortable supporting our military but establishing a limit on spending that is consistent with our broader national needs. Even with the $470 billion in cuts already made in the past several years, we are spending too much.”
No, America is not spending too much on defense; it is barely investing enough. And Schake is not a conservative. Anyone who supports deep defense cuts, such as sequestration, is not a conservative. To be one, you have to support a strong national defense and adequate funding for it and OPPOSE deep defense cuts. Yet, deep budgetary cuts, such as sequestration, would render the defense budget woefully inadequate.
Schake further falsely claimed that
“Drones have perked fast into the force, and provide significant advantages over manned platforms for the types of scenarios in which the Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 are important. Given the time in inventory — most of our aircraft are older than the pilots flying them — we will have these planes an awful lot longer than we are likely to use them for those missions. Accelerating unmanned platforms might provide a more cost-effective means.”
But this isn’t true. Drones are useless for anything other than ISR and small-scale ground attack in extremely benign environments. They can’t serve in any other role. To be valuable fighters capable of defeating enemy aircraft, they’d have to be large, jet-powered, twin-engined, and have a large fuel and weapon load capacity as well as an excellent radar aperture. This would necessitate large drones – of size similar to that of manned fighters – which would defeat the point. Moreover, drones’ signals keeping them linked to control centers can break down or be jammed by the enemy, who can also commandeer them, and they need to be controlled throughout the flight. Manned aircraft don’t have such problems. Moreover, the only US fighter capable of ensuring continued US air supremacy is the F-22, and possibly in the future, the F-35.
Schake also claims:
“Just as the Vietnam war cast a long shadow on American uses of force, the strain and cost of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to disqualify counterinsurgency as a policy option for the foreseeable future. The Army has not yet made a persuasive case for the 490,000 soldiers they want to retain on active duty, and should be challenged to do so. Where we will need to fight ground campaigns, there is likely to be significant mobilization time, allowing a shift of troops into the reserve component, the Marine Corps acting as a hedge.”
Again, not true. Shifting troops into reserve components will only weaken the military and dramatically reduce its readiness. Reservists take a lot of time to mobilize, require 5 years of dwell (rest) after every year of deployment, and, when actually mobilized, cost as much as active duty troops. Cutting the Army below its 9/11 size would make it potentially too small for even one large-scale ground campaign, and as actual history (including Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait and the need to strike Afghanistan) has shown, there will be little warning and little time for mobilization. Yet, the military’s purpose is to be ready to act immediately, or on short notice, if need be. The Marine Corps cannot act as a hedge if sequestration goes through, because sequestration would cut it down to 145,000 (too few to handle even “one major contingency” according to General Dunford) and force it to cancel all key modernization programs – the F-35, V-22, JLTV, and new amphibious tractor – thus gutting it completely.
So as you can see, the claims of defense cuts’ supporters are blatant lies, thoroughly debunked here one by one. They would be wise not to open their mouths again.