Before it recedes, the 112th Congress will have to address the issue of impeding sequestration, which will cut defense spending (on top of all cuts already administered and scheduled) by another $600 bn over the next decade, starting on January 2nd. As it prepares to do so, I would like to refute a few myths claimed by the proponents of deep defense spending cuts. I will use a ridiculous article written for nj.com by extremely liberal New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews.
In an article published a year ago, before the Super Committee receded without any deficit reduction plan, Rob Andrews falsely claimed that:
“If deadlock occurs, the Department of Defense stands to face $500 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. While Pentagon officials are aggressively lobbying Capitol Hill to stop the sequester from kicking in, the fact is we cannot achieve fiscal stability unless we significantly reduce defense spending. With that in mind, we can trim even more — upward of $600 billion over 10 years — by making a few targeted cuts, and it can be done without jeopardizing our national security.”
And at the end of the article, Andrews falsely claims that “Allowing the automatic cuts to occur is a missed opportunity because we can do better. The default defense cuts simply scratch the surface — and that’s no way to get the job done.”
FALSE. It isn’t just DOD officials who are aggressively “lobbying” to stop the sequester, it’s majorities of members of both parties. Moreover, the sequester would cut $600 bn, not $500 bn, from the defense budget over the next 10 years, and it WILL gut the US military for the reasons stated here, here, here, and here. In short, it would cut defense spending so deeply that wouldn’t be nearly enough funding for operations, the maintenance of existing equipment and bases, the development and acquisition of new equipment, or healthcare for the troops, as the accounts for ALL of these purposes and programs would have to be cut DEEPLY and UNIFORMLY, by 10%, every FY from FY2013 (the present) through FY2022.
Anyone who claims that sequestration, or cuts even deeper than that, can be made safely “without jeopardizing national security” is either dangerously ignorant or deliberately trying to lead the American people into a false sense of security.
It follows logically that cutting defense spending even deeper, by “upwards of $600 bn over 10 years”, would weaken the US military even more severely. As we can see from detailed analysis of the Congressman’s ridiculous defense cuts proposals. Andrews proudly tells us that
“Early this month, I joined Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to urge the supercommittee to find even more savings in the defense budget. We identified five key areas where further restraints in defense spending could be found. These cuts have been carefully selected to maximize savings, while ensuring that the men and women serving in our armed services have the tools needed to succeed in their missions across the globe.”
The Congressman’s assurances are utterly false, as stated above, and as we can see below. And Barney Frank, a strident anti-defense liberal who has repeatedly tried to enact deep defense cuts, is not a credible person.
Besides withdrawing from Iraq (which has already been done) and withdrawing prematurely from Afghanistan before 2014 (without regard to the conditions on the ground and what will happen to that country), Andrews advocates the following:
“Second, we can reduce spending by closing unnecessary military bases in Europe and Asia, many of which were built during the Cold War era to protect America from a global war. Thankfully, America no longer faces this type of threat. We should focus our spending on more foreseeable dangers that actually exist in today’s modern world.
There are more than 100,000 troops stationed at these bases, and during these difficult economic times, it is increasingly difficult to support their operations. We can save hundreds of billions of dollars by sending them home or to places where there’s a more urgent need for their services.”
FALSE. Closing these bases and bringing the troops home would not save a single cent. Not even one penny. That’s because not only would bringing the troops home be expensive by itself, but building bases in the US (there isn’t enough space at existing bases) for these 100,000 troops would cost tens of billions of dollars every year.
Moreover, these bases are needed, and the deployment of US troops abroad is justified – especially in Asia – in view of current threats from China and North Korea. Pyongyang has a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles (of all classes) to deliver them, has launched ballistic missiles over Japan, has repeatedly perpetrated aggression against South Korea (most recently in 2010), and poses a direct threat to America’s and its allies’ security.
The Chinese threat is even worse. China is a nascent superpower with a growing arsenal of conventional and strategic weapons of growing sophistication and effectiveness. These include submarines, surface ships, fighters, attack jets, ballistic missiles, and now even an aircraft carrier, with more flattops to follow later this decade. China is increasingly aggressive and hostile towards the US and its allies, whom it bullies, most recently deploying several warships to the waters around Japan’s Senkaku Islands (which China recognized as Japanese until 1972).
America’s allies in Asia, including Japan, the Philippines, and others are increasingly worried about China’s bullying and military buildup, which long ago exceeded legitimate self-defense requirements. Withdrawing from Asia and closing American bases there would prove to them that the US is not an ally and can never be trusted. It would also signal to Beijing that the US is tucking its tail and running away and does not intend to contest China’s military buildup or its confrontational behavior.
American bases and troop deployments in Europe are also justified, although arguably not on the current scale. But America’s Central European allies deserve and need to be protected from an increasingly aggressive, KGB-governed Russia. Putin’s confrontational, coercive foreign policy is a threat as much to the US as to them.
Moreover, bases in Asia and Europe serve a very important purpose: power projection. From there, the US can launch and deploy aircraft, ships, missile interceptors, and troops anytime. This cannot be done effectively from the CONUS or even from Hawaii. The CONUS and Hawaii are simply too far away to effectively and quickly project power.
When Japan was struck by a tsunami and an earthquake, quick American help was possible ONLY because there were American troops, including an American carrier group, in Japan. When the US consulate in Benghazi was attacked, the DOD sent in a FAST Marine team, which came from Rota, Spain – NOT from the CONUS. Spain is just a few hours of flight away from Benghazi.
Andrews further falsely claims that
“Third, we should stop investing in redundant and unnecessary weapons systems. One example of this is a missile program called MEADS, the Medium Extended Air Defense System.(…) There are other wasteful and obsolete weapons programs just like MEADS that can be terminated immediately and deliver astronomical savings.”
While there are a few such systems, including MEADS, they are few in number and terminating them would deliver only tiny savings. For example, cancelling MEADS would save only $400 mn in FY2013 and nothing in later FYs. Cancelling other wasteful systems would save only a drop in the bucket.
The vast majority of the DOD’s current weapon programs are crucial, needed, nonredundant weapons which America needs urgently. Andrews, however, might consider many of them as “redundant or unnecessary”. In any case, he should be forced to say publicly which programs he deems unnecessary and how the Nation can defend themselves without them.
“Fourth, we need to eliminate wasteful cost overruns resulting from the excessive research and development of military technology. Ensuring that our war fighters have the best possible tools in the field is the utmost priority, but defense contractors need to be held more accountable for their persistent delays and constant low-balling.”
Again, Andrews needs to specify what he means. Furthermore, it is not true that the DOD is engaged in “excessive research and development of military technology” – technology is being developed deeply, with high degree of sophistication, because it needs to be. Primitive, unsurvivable weapons from the 1970s are useless in today’s threat environment.
Andrews cites SBIRS’s delays as an example. Its delays (of 9 years) are lamentable, but SBIRS is necessary to provide early warning about enemy ballistic missile launches.
The article uses a totally false graph of US military spending purporting to “show” that US military spending has been growing incessantly since 1962, was higher during the 1990s than during the 1980s, and is now much higher than during the 1980s. How did they arrive at such fictitious result? By ignoring inflation, which erodes the value of the dollar over time.
In short, the Congressman’s claims are mostly blatant lies. But I’m not surprised, given that Andrews himself is no paragon of fiscal virtue.