Tag Archives: defense spending

Rebuttal of the MSNBC’s lies about defense spending

On July 19th, the day the Defense Appropriations Bill was passed, MSNBC did a hatchet job on defense spending during its Morning Joe show (hosted by pseudoconservative liberal saboteur and over Ron Paul supporter Joe Scarborough). The program was, as could be expected of MSNBC (and in particular, of Joe Scarborough), irredeemably biased, utterly ridiculous, and designed to mislead the public about defense spending and the military’s structure.

Joe Scarborough opened the show by claiming that the US spends more its military than the next 16-17 combined. That is false. According to the SIPRI, as of last year, the next 9 countries (China, Russia, France, the UK, Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia) combined spent more than the US if PPP differences are accounted for – and that’s even if one accepts the SIPRI’s woefully understated figures for China and Russia. (The DOD says that China’s 2011 military budget was $186 bn, yet SIPRI falsely claims it was only $143 bn.)

Scarborough further revealed his total ignorance when he falsely claimed that the US military’s structure is still the same as it was in 1947. That is not true. The military’s structure today is totally different than it was back then. At that time, the USAF and the DOD were just being established (in late 1947; the DOD was created under the name ‘National Military Establishment’), the size of the four Services was far larger than it is today (although the military was in a post-WW2 drawdown), there were no ICBMs (or indeed any ballistic missiles) in the military’s inventory (and therefore no SSBNs either), and there were no Combatant Commands – the Service Chiefs were in the chain of command. In fact, the size of the military today is far smaller than it was in 1991, when the Cold War ended.

During the show, the following message was displayed at the bottom of the screen:



Growing military industrial complex? Are they kidding? The US spends only 4.41% of GDP and less than 1/5th of the federal budget on the military. The figures for the base defense budget are just 3.63% of GDP and less than 15% of the TFB. Weapon orders are lower than ever. The military is much smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War. The US nuclear arsenal is the smallest since the Eisenhower era at 5,113 warheads.

And what is the influence of that supposedly hugely influential and growing “military industrial complex” that MSNBC and so many opponents of a strong defense allege exists? It hasn’t stopped the closures of over 50 weapon programs in 2009 and 2010, the ratification of the New START nuclear disarmament treaty, the Gates Efficiencies and Cuts initiative of 2011, or the Budget Control Act, which mandates a $487 bn cut in defense spending starting this October 1st and a sequestration of defense spending to the tune of $600 bn starting on January 2nd.

Where was the big bad Military-Industrial Complex when Gates was killing over 50 weapon programs, when the Senate was ratifying New START in a lameduck session, when Gates was cutting $178 bn in defense expenditures, when Obama was demanding at least $400 bn in further defense cuts, and when the Congress passed the Budget Control Act (with first tier cut and sequestration provisions in it)?

Nowhere, because it doesn’t exist, except in the fantasy world of liberals like MSNBC propagandists.

When President Eisenhower delivered his Farewell Address of 1961, he wasn’t arguing against a large standing military or a large defense budget (and America’s current defense budget is not large). He was merely warning not to give the uniformed military nor the defense industry excessive influence – whether sought or unsought. And context matters. When President Eisenhower delivered his warning, defense spending consumed almost 10% of GDP and more than half of the entire federal budget. Now these figures are much lower.

And what guests did they invite to the show? Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) – both of whom support deep defense cuts. Barney Frank is a well-known longtime supporter of deep defense cuts, which he regularly votes for, as does Mick Mulvaney, as recorded by the Roll Call Votes cited on this blog on Friday. Moreover, last year, he proposed a $250 bn annual cut in military spending (including a $150 bn cut in the annual base defense budget), and last year, he, along with Reps. Paul and Jones and Sen. Wyden, sponsored a pseudo-non-partisan, overwhelmingly biased, “Sustainable Defense Task Force” which called for deep defense cuts across the board.

During the show, Frank lied again, claiming that the US no longer needs a nuclear triad. The fact is that it does, because it confronts two nuclear-armed peer competitors, Russia and China, both of whom have large nuclear arsenals and nuclear triads of their own. Russia has over 100 Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers, almost 400 ICBMs, and 14-15 SSBNs, including one capable of launching 20 SLBMs. It also has several times more tactical nuclear weapons than the US does. China has up to 3,000 nuclear warheads according to Professor Philip Karber of Georgetown University, and a nuclear triad consisting of H-6K bombers, DF-5, DF-31, and DF-41 ICBMs, and SSBNs armed with the JL-1 and JL-2 SLBMs (not to mention its numerous IRBMs, MRBMs, and SRBMs). Most of China’s warheads and missile launchers are probably based underground in the 3,000 miles of tunnels that China has built for that purpose.

To protect itself against these threats, America NEEDS a large nuclear deterrent (no smaller than the one it currently has) and a nuclear triad, which offers maximum survivability.

For his part. Rep. Mick Mulvaney falsely claimed that sequestration, if it were to go through, would represent the first round of defense cuts (he presumably meant “first round of defense cuts since 9/11). But that’s a blatant lie, because since 2009, numerous rounds of defense cuts have been implemented, as stated above. But even if he meant “first real-term cuts in defense spending”, i.e. a reduction from the level of defense spending from the past year, that still doesn’t help him: even without sequestration, the defense budget for FY2013 will be SMALLER than the one for FY2012 (i.e. the current fiscal year), which is $531 bn. That is mandated by the first tier of the BCA (which the program’s guests and hosts ignored, probably deliberately). That is the law. By virtue of the first tier of the BCA, the defense budget must get smaller next year, in real terms – and that means tough choices for the DOD. The results of these choices, as mandated by these real-term budget cuts, were announced by the DOD in January: ship and aircraft fleet cuts, personnel number reductions, healthcare and retirement program reforms, efficiencies, etc.

In short, the July 19th Morning Joe program was, as usual, a litany of blatant lies aired by an extremely liberal TV channel. All decent Americans should boycott that channel.



Why “libertarian Republicans” are weak-defense-liberals

There is a small, but vociferous group of Congressmen among House Republicans who claim they are “fiscal conservatives” and even “true conservatives” but who support, and vote for, deep defense cuts and against robust funding for America’s defense. They include Ron Paul, Justin Amash (a Michigan clone of Paul), Raul Castro Labrador, John Duncan (TN), Tim Johnson (IL), Tim Huelskamp, Jeff Flake, Dana Rohrabacher, Mick Mulvaney, Walter Jones, and W. James Sensenbrenner.

They and their supporters deceptively claim that they support a strong defense – they just don’t want the DOD to be exempt from budget cuts and want it to be on the table; they claim they want to balance the budget, that this is their #1 goal, and that everything has to be cut for that goal to be achieved. They claim that Republicans can’t exempt defense from cuts because it would cause them to “lose their moral authority” on budgetary issues.

But their claims are lies. Read on, and I will prove to you that these guys (as well as some other House Republicans) are pseudo-conservatives and are actually liberals (or libertarians, if you will) who actively seek to whack defense as deeply as they can, to weaken it in any way possible, and thus to gut it.

As an example, I will use the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for FY2013 passed by the House yesterday and the attempted and passed amendments to it. Here are the budget roll calls.

Here is an explanation of each amendment to the bill offered on the House floor.

Here are examples of the amendments they have voted for or against:

1) The First Quigley Amendment would have eliminated $998 mn in funding for one Burke class surface combatant (at a time when the Navy’s shipbuilding rate and warship fleet are already inadequate). The following Republicans voted for it: Amash, Benishek, Campbell, Dold, Duffy, John Duncan (TN), Flake, Griffith, Herrera Beutler, Huelskamp, Huizenga, Johnson (IL), Jones, Labrador, Lummis, McClintock, Paul, Petri, Ribble, Rohrabacher, Sensenbrenner, Tipton, Upton, and Walden. They voted to eliminate that warship together with the most strident liberals in the House (but even most Dems voted against it). RCV #474. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll474.xml)

2) The First Markey Amendment would’ve cut $75 mn for the Nation’s Ground Based Interceptor system, which protects the US and Canada (and ONLY these countries) against long range ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea. This has nothing to do with foreign bases or defending foreign countries (other than Canada); this is solely about defending the US homeland. But Amash, Bachmann (yes, Michele Bachmann), John Duncan (TN), Chris Gibson, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Huizenga, Jones, Labrador, Mulvaney, Paul, Upton, and Walden voted for it – and thus voted to deny the US homeland adequate protection against ICBMs – thus proving they don’t want to defend even the US homeland and just seek to gut America’s defenseRCV #477. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll477.xml)

3) The Third Woolsey Amendment, like Woolsey’s previous two, would’ve arbitrarily cut total funding by $1.7 bn in FY2013. 14 Republicans voted for it: Amash, Benishek, Campbell, Duncan (TN), Johnson (IL), Jones, Labrador, McClintock, Miller (MI), Mulvaney, Paul, Rohrabacher, and Sensenbrenner. They, along with Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith, also voted for the previous two Woolsey Amendments. RCV #484. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll484.xml)

4) With 68,000 US troops still in harms’ way in Afghanistan, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a strident liberal, introduced the Second Lee Amendment, which would’ve arbitrarily cut funding for these troops (in the Overseas Deployment and Other Spending category) by $20.7 bn. The following 8 Republicans voted to defund the troops who are still in harms’ way: Amash, Benishek, Campbell, Duncan (TN), Johnson (IL), Jones, Paul, Rohrabacher. It should be noted that even the majority of Dems voted against this (as did Raul Castro Labrador). RCV #485. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll485.xml)

5) The Fourth Lee Amendment would’ve arbitrarily cut the overall level of funding in the bill by over $19 bn, exempting only military personnel and HC accounts (which means the cut would disproportionately target readiness and modernization, since only these accounts would be open to cuts under this Amendment; this would have had a disastrous effect on the military’s ability to protect America). 7 Republicans voted for it together with the most strident liberals in the House: Amash, Campbell, Duncan (TN), Johnson (IL), Jones, and Paul. Even Labrador voted against it, as did 325 other Congressmen. RCV #488. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll488.xml)

6) The Moran of Virginia Amendment, which passed, prohibits the DOD from entering into any contract with Russia’s state-owned arms export monopoly, Rosoboronoexport. Rep. Moran introduced it because the state-owned Russian company handles all of Russia’s weapon exports, including to odious regimes like Syria and Iran, and those who voted for it believe that it shouldn’t be rewarded with US taxpayers’ money for weapon sales to such regimes. It passed by a huge bipartisan margin (414-5). Guess who were the five dissenters? Adam Smith (a Dem from Washington) and Republicans Barton (TX), Hayworth, Long, and Paul. Why did they vote for it? Even fiscal-only-conservatives and libertarians should support it, because 1) it limits opportunities for the DOD to enter into contracts (i.e. to spend money); 2) it prohibits US funding for a foreign STATE-OWNED MONOPOLY; and 3) it ensures taxpayers’ money will not be used to reward a company that sales weapons to rogue regimes. Why did Paul vote against this Amendment, while voting to defund America’s own defense? Because he hates America more fanatically than Al-Qaeda does, plain and simple. RCV #490. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll490.xml)

7) The Turner of Ohio Amendment “Prohibits funds from being used to reduce the nuclear forces of the U.S. to implement the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study, modify the Secretary of Defense Guidance for Employment of Force, or the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan.  This has no effect on New START.”

In other words, the amendment prohibits Obama from cutting the US nuclear arsenal unilaterally, without a treaty being concluded with Russia and ratified by the Senate.  It ensures that America’s nuclear deterrent cannot be cut unilaterally. Amash, Campbell, Gibson, Jones, Labrador, Paul, Price (GA), and Roskam voted against this amendment, i.e they voted to allow Obama to cut the nuclear deterrent as deeply as he wishes to, according to his whims (Obama plans to cut the deployed arsenal unilaterally to just 1,000 warheads), and even to disarm the US unilaterally if he wants to. They also voted to allow taxpayers’ money to be spent on this. RCV #491. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll491.xml)

8) Similarly, Rep. Rick Berg of ND introduced an Amendment barring the President from unilaterally cutting America’s fleet of nuclear delivery systems: SSBNs, ICBMs, heavy bombers, and cruise missiles. These are the systems which, in the event of a nuclear attack on America, would deliver the warheads to the enemy. Bombers also serve in a conventional strike role. Rep. Berg’s amendment would prohibit Obama from scrapping them unilaterally. 16 Republicans voted against it (i.e. to allow Obama to cut them unilaterally): Amash, Bilbray, Brooks, Buchanan, Campbell, Dent, Duncan (TN), Fortenberry, Gibson, Jones, Labrador, Paul, Renacci, Rohrabacher, Thompson (PA), and Woodall. RCV #493. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll493.xml)

9) The Garamendi Amendment would cut “Title IX – Overseas Deployment and Other Activities to $12.6 billion. Exempts Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, Defense Health Program, Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities – Defense, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund, and Office for the Inspector General from any reductions in funding.” This would be a deep, arbitrary cut in funding for the 100,000 troops still in harms’ way, with only a few exceptions. Eight Republicans voted for it: Amash, Benishek, Duncan (TN), Johnson (IL), Jones, Paul, Petri, and Rokita. RCV #494. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll494.xml)

10) And while they incessantly whine about “waste” in the defense budget and about the supposed need to “right-size” and cut it, they all voted against the modest TRICARE premium increases and health program reforms proposed by Secretary Panetta, as did all other Republicans and all but 17 Democrats. Those who voted to prohibit such reforms include Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who repeatedly introduced amendments to deeply cut the defense budget, calls it “bloated” (even though it amounts to just 4.4% of GDP), and says that it “needs to be addressed” if Congress is serious about the budget deficit, but she absolutely opposes reforms of the DOD’s personnel and HC programs and savings in them. So, does Rep. Lee want these costs to be addressed or not? RCV #497. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2012/roll497.xml)

In short, these strident anti-defense liberals who are masquerading as fiscal conservatives are have voted to arbitrarily and deeply cut funding for the military, including for the 100,000 American troops who are still in harms way; deeply cut the US nuclear arsenal and arsenal of delivery systems; allow Obama to do the same unilaterally by his whim (and to spend money on doing so); to subsidize a Russian state-owned company that sells weapons to odious regimes; and to cut the missile defense system that protects the homeland.

They are not “conservatives”. They are not even “fiscal conservatives”. They are strident anti-defense liberals, just like the overt Democrats they vote so often with (against Republicans). They must be exposed for whom they really are, shamed, and thrown out of the Republican Party. They deserve absolute contempt and disrespect. They should be ostracized and shunned like lepers.

Romney should pound Obama on sequestration and previous defense cuts

When Barack Obama visited Virginia on his propaganda tour this week, Mitt Romney and other Republicans rightly pounded Obama for his massive defense cuts, including sequestration. However, they did not appear to do so effectively enough, because Obama retains a lead over Romney in Virginia.

Yet, it will hit the military, the defense industry, and the entire Nation hard on January 2nd, 2013, if it is not cancelled. Over 103 bn dollars will be cut out of the base defense budget if it isn’t. The consequences for Virginia would be, inter alia, the following:

1) Every shipbuilding program would have to be cut deeply by the same percentage. And, as Secretary Panetta says, since you can’t buy 3/4s of a ship, that means no warships could be bought at all.

2) At least one, and perhaps more than one, carrier group would have to be eliminated.

3) The Virginia-based Northrop Grumman can forget about the opportunity to build a next-generation long-range-bomber for the Air Force.

4) The Navy can forget about adding the Virginia Payload Module to its submarines or modifying any further cruisers or DDGs with BMD capability. In fact, the Navy would have to be cut to below 230 ships – thus becoming smaller than the Russian Navy – down from today’s already-inadequate fleet of 285 ships. No prizes for guessing where most of these decommisioned ships would have to come from – NS Norfolk, VA, the Navy’s largest base.

5) At least one CAW, probably two, would have to be eliminated. Again, no prizes for guessing where that CAW would come from – most likely NAS Oceana, VA.

6) Hundreds of thousands of troops, including thousands of those based in Virginia, would have to be laid off immediately.

7) Massive layoffs would occur in the US defense industry, with up to 1 million jobs on the line. Virginia would be hit harder than any other state except California.

And that’s just for starters, and just the consequences for Virginia.

Barack Obama and his propaganda team falsely claim that these cuts are part of some sacred agreement that Republicans agreed to, and that they’ve not presented any serious solution to sequestration.

But that’s not true. Republicans HAVE presented serious solutions: the Sequester Reconciliation Act (authored by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the House), the Ryan Budget Plan (also passed by the House), and the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act (H.R. 3662, which would replace only 1 out of every 3 retiring government workers).

Yet, Obama has threatened to veto both Acts (he can’t veto a budget resolution) and any other legislation that does not raise taxes on the most productive Americans (those who earn more than 250,000 dollars a year), even though his own SECDEF says that sequestration would be an utter disaster.

It is also not true that Republicans created this problem. Obama demanded massive defense cuts – on top of all the cuts Secretary Gates had administered and scheduled before April 2011 – long before the need to raise the debt ceiling even arose. He demanded them in a GWU speech on April 13th, 2011. Then, in negotiations on the debt ceiling deal and the spending cuts that accompanied it, it was Obama and his Congressional Democrat chums who demanded deep defense cuts as a part of any deal, with Obama saying he wanted to deeply cut defense to protect welfare programs. The eventual deal contained 487 bn in immediate defense budget cuts and a sequester threatening to cut another 550 bn out of defense, starting in FY2013, if the Super Committee could not agree to any savings (which it couldn’t, so now the sequester has kicked in). Both of these tranches of defense cuts were included at the Democrats’ and Obama’s insistence.

The sequester itself was created by them specifically to force Republicans to choose between massive defense cuts and massive tax hikes, because Obama and the Dems know that Republicans hate both. It was a purely partisan tool to start with.

And yet, Obama, along with the Democrat-controlled, do-nothing-Senate, still uses the sequester as a political tool to extract massive tax hikes from Republicans. He continues to threaten to veto any legislation that does not raise taxes on the most productive Americans.

Republicans, including Mitt Romney, need to call Obama out on this in stronger words than those used so far.

To hold the US military, national security, and industrial base at risk for the sake of a political agenda (of raising taxes) is the most despicable thing a President can do. It completely disqualifies Obama from being President and even dog catcher. By doing so, Obama has proven that not only is he unfit to be President, he’s unfit to be a toilet cleaner.

Romney needs to wage a no-holds-barred offensive against Obama for that reason – in Virginia and beyond.


Sequestration is even worse than previously thought

As I have repeatedly explained in great detail here, sequestration – the automatic across-the-board cut of $550 bn out of the defense budget over the next decade scheduled to kick in next January on top of all defense cuts already administered – is even worse than I or others previously thought.

As data stated in the Paul Ryan Budget Plan, in Table 1 of Appendix II, proves, defense would bear far more than half of the burden of the sequester’s budget cuts. The numbers, as the table states, would be as follows:

Category/FY13–14–15–16–17—18—19–20—21—22–TOTAL CUT OVER THE DECADE

Sequester  -­‐98 -­‐93 -­‐92 -­‐91 -­‐91 -­‐90 -­‐89 -­‐88 -­‐88 -­‐90 -­‐913
Defense —-­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐55 -­‐56 -­‐551
Non-­‐Def. -­‐43 -­‐38 -­‐38 -­‐37 -­‐36 -­‐36 -­‐35 -­‐33 -­‐33 -­‐34 -­‐362

As these numbers prove, defense would bear far more than half of the spending cuts burden. In the first year (FY2013), it would be 56%; in FY2014, 59%; in FY2015, 59.78%; in FY2016, 60.43%; in FY2017, 60.43%; in FY2018, 61.11%; in FY2019, 61.79%; in FY2020, 62.5%; in FY2021, 62.5%; in FY2022, 61.11%.

In total, defense would be whacked by $551 bn over a decade, while nondefense discretionary spending would be cut by only $362 bn. Thus, the total amount of cuts would be $913 bn, and defense would bear 60.35% of that spending cut burden, i.e. the vast majority.

This belies the claims of liberals and libertarians such as Raul Castro Labrador (RINO-ID), Dustin Siggins, and Harry Reid that defense has so far been off the table and that cancelling sequestration would amount to putting it off the table. It also belies and renders completely ridiculous demand that defense “start bearing its fair share of the burden.”

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.

In short, sequestration would not only hit defense deeply and across-the-board, thus gutting it, it would also hit it DISPROPORTIONATELY, forcing it to bear over 60% of the spending cuts burden that the sequester would bring about. That is idiotic, suicidal, unjust, and dare I say, treasonous.

But the opponents of a strong defense, while supporting deep cuts to the defense budget, have no problem voting for bloated domestic spending bills, including and especially those that spend money on issues reserved exclusively to the states and the people, such as transportation, housing, urban development, and agriculture. Take, for example, Congressman John Duncan of Tennessee, who says on his website that he supports massive defense cuts and a policy of isolationism. His pretext is that there is waste in the defense budget. But he has no qualms about supporting unconstitutional bills LOADED with wasteful spending such as the FY2013 Transportation and HUD Appropriations Bill and the waste-laden, pork-laden 2012 Highway Bill. In other words, do as I say, not as I do. According to him, wasteful defense spending, indeed, any defense spending is bad – but wasteful domestic spending is great.

This utterly discredits them.

Why defense sequestration must be repealed – FAQ

The following is a FAQ for everyone seeking information on the pending sequestration of defense spending.

First, what is the sequester?

It is an automatic mechanism which, unless current law is changed, will cut $600 bn per decade ($60 bn per year) out of the core defense budget (which is $531 bn in the current FY) on top of the first tier of defense budget cuts ordered by last August’s debt ceiling deal ($487 bn over a decade). In total, unless law is changed, it would cut over $1 trillion out of defense over a decade. And that’s on top of the shrinking, and eventual zeroing out, of GWOT budgets resulting from withdrawal from Afghanistan.

How did the sequester come about?

It was included in the debt ceiling deal concluded last August. Republicans wanted spending cuts in exchange for hiking the debt ceiling, so the law ordered, as a first step, $487 bn in defense cuts and modest cuts in domestic discretionary programs, and imposed an overall cap on discretionary spending.

Furthermore, it created a committee of 12 Congressmen and Senators tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade. The sequester, which threatens to cut that much automatically (with half of it coming from defense), was added as an incentive for committee members to compromise. As OMB Director Jacob Lew says, “The sequester was never meant to be policy.”

But the committee failed to come up with any plan, and so did the Congress at large, triggering the sequester. Now, barring a change in law, the military – an innocent third party – will be punished for Congress’s failure to cut the deficit.

How grave would the cuts be?

Very grave. The $600 bn defense cuts would come on top of the First Tier of defense cuts ($487 bn), which are cutting not only waste but also several crucial military capabilities. Despite the frequently-made claim that “there’s still a lot of waste in the defense budget”, there isn’t enough of it to pay for $1 trillion in defense budget cuts, even over a decade. Not even close.

The best proof is that no one among those making this claim has been able to demonstrate $1 trillion (or anything close to it) in genuine waste in the defense budget. Most of the “wasteful” programs that defense cuts’ proponents have singled out for termination are actually crucial military capabilities and programs such as the Virginia class and the V-22 Osprey.

If anyone claims that there is $100 bn in waste in every annual defense budget, the burden of proof is on that person, as the claimant.

There is some, perhaps even a lot, of waste in the defense budget, but not $1 trillion, and sequestration is the worst way to eliminate it, because it would cut everything equally, the waste along with the essentials. That’s an insane policy. The RIGHT way to eliminate waste is to review the defense budget line by line, eliminate all wasteful and fraudulent expenditures, and fully fund all essential defense programs. There is no alternative to this intellectual hard work.

Under sequestration, the DOD would have to, inter alia:

  • Cancel the F-35 program completely without replacement, and thus betray foreign program partners and give up air superiority
  • Eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad completely while cutting the bomber fleet by 2/3 and cancelling the bomber replacement program
  • Cancel the SSBN replacement program and cut the existing SSBN fleet
  • Cancel all but the most basic upgrades for F-15s and F-16s while cutting the fighter fleet by 35%
  • Cut the USN’s ship fleet below 230 vessels, the smallest size since 1915, and vastly inadequate (independent studies say the Navy needs 346 ships)
  • Cut the carrier and attack submarine fleets and the Virginia class construction rate
  • 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
  • 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
  • Lay off, in total, 200,000 military personnel

As testified by Obama’s own SECDEF, as well as all Joint Chiefs, deputy service chiefs, lower-ranking generals, and other DOD officials, and as confirmed by many independent analysts and retired officers, sequestration would completely gut the military. For JCS Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, sequestration would produce “the definition of a hollow force”. For USMC LTG Richard Mills, “sequestration would break faith with those defending America.”

General Dempsey warns that if sequestration goes through and military personnel are exempted from it, he can cut only equipment, operations, and maintenance, and cut them big – and that, he says, would produce “the definition of a hollow force.”

The HASC has come to similar conclusions and also warns that most of the damage that would be done to defense would be irreversible. For example, if you cancel a shipbuilding program that a shipyard relies on, the shipyard will have to close and be liquidated and will not be there to reopen when you’re finally ready to start buying ships again.

But won’t repealing sequestration let the DOD off the hook?

No, because it would retain First Tier BCA-mandated cuts ($487 bn per decade) and the cap on defense spending, as well as all the defense cuts already implemented, intact.

But why should we cut social programs (such as entitlements, welfare, foodstamps) and other domestic discretionary programs instead? Why exempt defense from sequestration and shift the cuts there?

Firstly, defense has already contributed $920 bn in savings since 2009 (and will contribute more as US troops withdraw from Afghanistan), while no other government program or agency has contributed any significant savings and most haven’t seen any budget cuts at all. Secondly, defense is the #1 Constitutional duty of the federal government, while most domestic programs, including those mentioned above, are unconstitutional and are the exclusive province of the states. Welfare, foodstamps, agriculture, transportation, and health are among the myriad of issues reserved to the states and the people. Thirdly, as America’s national experience shows, states and localities, as well as private citizens, are best-informed and best-equipped to deal with these issues, while the federal government only makes matters worse. For example, since the federal Education Department was established, the quality of America’s schools has been badly degraded, precisely because of federal meddling.

Last but not least, the costs of these domestic discretionary programs – especially social programs – are excessive and far higher than the cost of defense. In FY2010 alone, federal welfare spending was $888 bn and has grown since then. More Americans are on welfare rolls and on food stamps (46 million) than ever before in US history. The US spends more on education than any other country, in absolute numbers and per capita, yet the HS dropout rate is 30%.

But should we subsidize the defense industry and foreign countries’ defense?

The defense budget is not about subsidizing the industry and it is not a jobs program (although some politicians want it to be one). Its only purpose is to provide the resources needed to protect the country. But decisions on defense programs shouldn’t be made without consideration for the defense industry’s health, since without it, the US cannot produce the equipment and supplies American troops need. It shouldn’t be the primary consideration, but it shouldn’t be completely ignored, either.

As for foreign countries, even if the US were to revoke its defense commitments to all allies and protect only itself, it would still need a large military and defense budget. There is a large territory, long borders, 308 million citizens, and crucial sealanes (on which the US economy depends) to protect. That cannot be done on the cheap.

But won’t we still be militarily stronger than China and Russia?

No; in fact, the US will be decisively weaker. The USN already has fewer ships than the PLAN, but the sequester would cut it below the Russian Navy’s size. Also, all three legs of the nuclear triad would be eliminated (one outright and the others through nonreplacement), and existing SSBN, fighter, and bomber fleets would be deeply cut, as would be missile defense programs (despite SM-3’s recent success), the size of the Army and Marine Corps, and other capabilities.

But don’t we need to sequestrate defense spending to  reduce the budget deficit?

No. Sequestration would be devastating for defense (a $60 bn annual cut!), but would not even dent the budget deficit, which is $1.3 trillion this FY. (See the graph below.) Moreover, it’s possible to balance the budget without sequestrating defense – as the budget plans of the RSC, Chairman Paul Ryan, the Heritage Foundation (introduced by Sen. Mike Lee), and Sen. Pat Toomey (all of which would spare defense from sequestration) prove.

So what can I do to stop sequestration from happening?

Contact your Congressman and Senators and tell them that you want Washington to fulfill its duty to protect the country and to stop sequestration. Tell them that if they fail, you will never vote for them again and will tell all  your friends to vote likewise. If enough citizens speak up, they will listen.

Rebuttal of Tom Coburn’s lies about defense spending

Tom Coburn’s newest book, the Debt Bomb, has recently been published. In that book, Coburn suggests many useful fiscal reforms and savings… except when it comes to defense spending.

Coburn, who is an anti-defense libertarian and not a conservative, is an ardent opponent of defense spending per se, and in his drive to deeply cut (and thus gut) America’s defense, he’s made up a litany of blatant lies that he wrote into Chapter 13 of his book, wrongly titled Defense: Peace Through Strength Through Streamlining.

The title is misleading because what Coburn actually advocates is not peace through strength, but peace through weakness, and the spending cuts he advocates go far beyond streamlining. He advocates massive cuts to actual military capabilities. He calls on Congress to implement the disastrous defense cuts proposals he has made in his ridiculous “Back to Black” plan. To reiterate:

1) Cutting spending on the nuclear arsenal and the arsenal of means of delivery by $7.9 bn per year, i.e. $79 bn over a decade, for purely budgetary reasons, by:
a) cutting the nuclear stockpile down to the inadequate levels allowed by the disastrous New START treaty (former SECDEF James Schlesinger deems them “barely adequate”);
b) cutting the ICBM fleet from 500 to 300 missiles (i.e. by a whopping 200 missiles);
c) cutting the SSBN fleet from from 14 to 11 subs;
d) delaying, again, for purely budgetary reasons, the Next Generation Bomber program until the mid-2020s when it hasn’t even been allowed to begin; and
e) maintaining a reserve stockpile of just 1,100 warheads;
f) cutting the strategic bomber fleet to just 40 aircraft compared to the current 96 nuclear-capable B-2s and B-52s and 66 non-nuclear-capable B-1s.
This is the worst of all his proposals by far. The disastrous New START treaty, which does not cover tactical nuclear weapons (in which Russia has overwhelming advantage), ordered the US to cut its nuclear arsenal to already-inadequate levels, so that Russia could keep nuclear parity status with the US. Cutting the US nuclear arsenal down to levels authorized by this treaty is a mistake; cutting it further would be an ever bigger mistake; cutting it by a whopping 200 ICBMs, 3 SSBNs, and hundreds of warheads would be an egregious blunder which would make America much less safe and invite a Russian nuclear first strike. Coburn also proposes to forego any modernization of the deterrent until the mid-2020s, and then only of the bomber fleet. A requirement for a Next Generation Bomber Type is real and was officially acknowledged by the DOD 5 years ago, in 2006, in that year’s Quadrennial Defense Review.(1) It was later confirmed by the 2010 QDR.(2) It was subsequently acknowledged by the then leadership of the DOD, including Secretary Gates. Later that year, the CSBA – which Coburn likes to cite as a source – released a report (authored by retired USAF Colonel Mark Gunzinger, who participated in all defense reviews to date) stating that an NGB is an urgent requirement which must be met by 2018 at the latest and that consequently, the NGB program must not be delayed any longer. (3)
In short, the nuclear triad is the last part of the military that should be cut. And for all of these draconian cuts, Coburn would “save” only $7.9 bn per year, whereas my proposals of cutting the administration budgets of the DOD alone would save taxpayers well over $10 bn per year.
2) End the purchases of V-22 Ospreys at no more than 288 aircraft, thus allowing some Marine H-46s to retire unreplaced, leaving the USMC with far fewer V-22s that they believe they need, and not having the V-22 Osprey as an option for the USAF’s CSARX competition or the Navy’s Carrier Onboard Delivery Aircraft Replacement plan. The savings: a meagre $0.6 bn a year, or $6 bn over a decade.
This proposal is just as dumb as the first one. Barring the USAF’s bombers (B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s), there isn’t a single weapon type in America’s inventory that is as combat-proven and as battle-tested as the V-22, which has been widely used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It is more survivable, and can fly much farther and faster, than any other rotorcraft in history, and can fly to places where other rotorcraft cannot. When an F-15E was downed in Libya earlier this year, it was a V-22 that rescued its crew. The V-22 is a must-have aircraft type. Orders for it should be increased, not cut. And contrary to Coburn’s claim, it costs only a little more than an MH-60: $67 mn for a V-22 vs at least $44 mn for an MH-60.
3) Cancel the Marine (STOVL) and Navy (CATOBAR) variants of the F-35, buy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets instead. The saving: a paltry $700 mn per year, i.e. $7 bn per decade.
This proposal, frequently stated by those who wish to cut the defense budget deeply, is fundamentally flawed, because it’s based on two wrong assumptions: a) a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing variant is not needed; b) the Super Bug is interchangeable with the F-35.
There is clearly a requirement for a STOVL variant, as confirmed by USMC Commandant Gen. James Amos, who is himself a Naval Aviator. He knows the F-35B better than anyone. Coburn’s assumption that a STOVL variant won’t be needed is based on wishful thinking. As for the second assumption: no, the Super Bug is not an alternative to, nor even substitute for, the F-35. It’s basically a redo of the F/A-18 Hornet, a plane that first flew in the 1970s. It is not stealthy, has a much shorter range compared to the F-35C, and a higher maintenance cost. It can operate only in benign, uncontested airspace.
4) Retire the USS George Washington early, cutting the carrier fleet permanently to 10 and cutting the number of carrier air wings from 10 to 9. This would save a paltry $600 mn per year, i.e. $6 bn over a decade, at a large cost to America’s defense.
This would also be reckless. Contrary to Coburn’s claim, during the Cold War, the USN needed – and always had – at least 15 carriers. Throughout the Cold War, the Navy had no fewer than 15 carriers. The flattop fleet was not cut until after the Cold War. In 2007, the Congress reluctantly agreed to cut the carrier fleet from 12 to 11, while simoultaneously writing a well-grounded requirement for at least 11 carriers into law. Last year, the Congress again reluctantly agreed to waive that requirement – but only for two years, from 2013 to 2015, until the USS Gerald R. Ford is commissioned. As studies by the Heritage Foundation have repeatedly shown, the Navy needs no fewer than 11 carriers at any one time. Cutting the carrier fleet and the number of CAWs would be reckless.
5) Cancelling the Precision Tracking Space Satellite (PTSS) program of the Missile Defense Agency.
This program is necessary to create a constellation of 6 dedicated satellites tracking ballistic missiles, a capability that none of America’s current satellites offer.
6) Cutting the total number of troops deployed in Europe and Asia to just 45,000.
While Europe can certainly defend itself on its own, having only one plausible enemy (Russia), this cannot be said of America’s Asian allies. The US can afford to withdraw troops from Europe but not Asia, where any American drawdown would be viewed as a sign of weakness and disengagement, which Sec. Panetta and President Obama have both recently tried to prevent, trying to assure America’s Asian allies that this will not happen.
7) Using the $100 bn savings that Secretary Gates for deficit reduction, not for military modernization as Sec. Gates wanted and the Services – which worked hard to find these savings – were promised by Gates, President Obama, and the Congress.
These savings were to be used for a number of military modernization programs, including purchases of additional ships, modernization of the Army’s combat vehicles, and the forementioned Next Generation Bomber program. Taking that money away from them and using it to pay the bills for a deficit caused exclusively by runaway civilian spending would not just be dumb, it would be an act of heinous betrayal.
(8) Delay the Ground Combat Vehicle for purely budgetary reasons. The saving: a paltry $700 mn per year, i.e. $7 bn per decade.
For purely budgetary reasons. Do I need to say more?
9) End the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program without replacement, not with a replacement as Sec. Gates proposed.
The decision of Sec. Gates (whom Coburn quotes selectively) to cancel the over-budget, delayed Marine amphibious truck vehicle known as the EFV was the right one. However, as a replacement, Gates proposed starting a new, less complex, less costly amphib program that is scheduled to produce the first amphibious trucks in 2014, so that Gen. Amos can ride in them before he retires in late 2014. As both Gates and Amos have stated, there is a clear requirement for such a vehicle. The USMC’s obsolete, Vietnam War era AAVs must be replaced. Coburn proposes not to replace them.
1o) Cutting DOD weapon R&D spending by 10% in FY2012, then by another 10% in FY2013, and then freezing it for a further 8 fiscal years.
Again, this is motivated purely by budgetary concerns, not military ones. Coburn claims that from FY1981 to FY1988, the DOD received, in constant dollars, $407 bn, and he claims that is only $51 bn per year. He’s wrong, and apparently can’t do simple math. $407 bn divided by seven is $58.142857 bn, i.e. ca. $58.143 bn. He proposes to cut R&D spending to a paltry $58.0 bn and keep it there, even though that is LESS than what was invested during the Reagan era.
Furthermore, Coburn claims (in the “What to cut from defense” subchapter) that his B2B defense cuts proposals are not just prudent but “necessary”. No, they are not. They would actually be deeply damaging, as they deeply weaken America’s defense and thus imperil national security. Furthermore, as the RSC, the Heritage Foundation, Paul Ryan, and Rand Paul have shown, it is possible to balance the federal budget WITHOUT significant defense cuts (even while Rand Paul, like me, proposes to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan quickly).
Furthermore, Coburn opens this chapter of his book with a selective quotation from President Eisenhower’s farewell address and falsely claims that Ike’s worst fears about the “military-industrial complex” have realized. No, they haven’t. Not even close. While the defense industry surely does a lot of lobbying on Capitol Hill and in the DOD, they have abysmally failed to prevail in the vast majority of cases, as evidenced by all the defense cuts (including the closure of over 50 weapon programs) since President Obama took office.
If the military-industrial complex exists and is so powerful, how come could it not even defend save any of those 50 weapon programs from termination?
Coburn claims that defense spending is a sacred cow. He writes:

“Of all the sacred cows that need to be tipped in Washington, defense spending is the biggest and the most stubborn.”

But the truth is that defense spending is NOT, and has never been, a sacred cow. Defense spending was deeply cut during the late 1940s, the 1950s, the 1970s (throughout the entire decade), and the 1990s, and has now been slated for $1.087 TRILLION dollar cuts over the next decade ($487 bn plus $600 bn through sequestration); on top of that, GWOT (OCO) spending is being cut annually and is set to zero out by FY2016, after the last US troops leave Afghanistan. Any claim that the DOD has ever been, or currently is, a “sacred cow” is a blatant lie.
Coburn acknowledges that

“First, it is one of the few legitimate Constitutional roles of the federal government. Also, peace through strength is not a mere slogan but a reality of life. Maintaining a strong national defense is vital to our national security. Our strength is our best deterrent. Without it, our economy, freedoms, and liberty are all placed at risk.”

and that
“Knowing what to keep and what to cut in the defense budget is our first responsibility as elected officials. Thinking critically about defense is your responsibility as well.”
 That is well said, but Coburn’s actual policy proposals are totally inconsistent with these principles that he CLAIMS he professes. On the one hand, he admits that a strong defense is necessary, but on the other, he advocates deep defense spending cuts, including draconian cuts to actual military capabilities and arsenals such as the ICBM fleet.
Coburn then commends the ignorant, biased, anti-defense hack Chris Edwards of the CATO Institute for bashing the F-22 program as a parochial project, and commends its cancellation, but the F-22 was NOT the parochial pork project Edwards and Coburn portray it to be. It was a NEEDED 5th generation fighterplane program which was WRONGLY cancelled by the Obama Administration, with Congressional consent, in FY2010. Now the future of the entire US fighterplane fleet relies on a single, troubled program – the F-35 – while Russia and China are testing their stealthy 5th generation Raptor-like fighterplanes.
Coburn also decries the former second engine for the F-35 as a pork project, yet it was actually a necessary program which was sustaining competition in the F-35 program. By killing it, the Congress gave Pratt&Whitney a monopoly on F-35 engines and forced three American military services as well as many foreign countries to rely on a single engine type. That was a reckless decision, yet Coburn lauds it.
Coburn furthermore complains that

“Congress has a rich history of ordering ships and planes our generals did not ask for and do not need.”

But the generals are hardly infallible, and per the Constitution, it is the CONGRESS, not the generals, who is supposed to decide what weapons the military needs and in what quantities. The Constitution vests the prerogatives “to provide for the common defense”, “to raise and support Armies”, and “to provide and maintain a Navy”, and to build military facilities SOLELY in the Congress. Deciding what weapons the military needs and in what quantities is exclusively for the Congress to make, not for the generals, the SECDEF, or the President. Although, to be fair, some of the earmarks he mentions were indeed irresponsible and harmful for the troops (such as the polyester clothing inserted by Congressman David Wu).
In the last 20 years, the generals, forced by successive Administrations to toe their propaganda lines and understate real military requirements, have usually testified (under White House pressure) in favor of ever fewer ships, planes, ground vehicles, and other weapons. So their testimony is not credible.
While on this subject, it’s worth noting that his own B2B plan proposes to cut many military capabilities that the generals deem necessary and worth protecting from cuts, including many procurement programs the generals deem necessary (including 2 variants of the F-35 and the V-22).
Moreover, earmarks constitute only a tiny part of the defense budget and the total federal budget, and are currently banned due to a moratorium. It is, however, only a moratorium, and needs to become a permanent, total earmark ban.
Calling us, opponents of deep defense cuts, “defenders of the status quo”, he calls defense spending’s tiny share of GDP a “misleading” figure. But I am not a defender of the status quo, merely an opponent of defense cuts (especially deep ones), i.e. of cuts to MILITARY CAPABILITIES and needed programs. I do not oppose DOD reforms; I’m actually the author of the largest DOD reform proposals package ever devised. Coburn also falsely claims that the nonwar (core) defense budget is larger today than it was during the height of the 1980s.
The current core defense budget is $531 bn. The FY2010 budget was $534 bn. The budgets for FY1987, FY1988, and FY1989 were, respectively: $606.35 bn, $574.23 bn, and $585.60 bn. So from FY1987 to FY1989, defense spending was MUCH HIGHER than it is now.
Coburn decries the fact that despite defense spending growth, the military is not stronger than it was in 2001 and is significantly smaller than in the 1940s or the rest of the Cold War. But the deep defense spending, force structure, and procurement cuts he advocates would make the problem much worse.
He also claims that “the growing cost of military hardware has been a key driver of our debt”, but that is not true. Although many weapon programs have suffered serious cost overruns, their cost (and even total military spending) has NOT been a key driver of America’s public debt. The military budget amounts to just 19% of total federal spending and accounts for only a tiny minority (less than 10%) of the spending growth that has occurred since FY2001.
The savings he proposes besides acquisition reform, while laudable and worth pursuing, would save taxpayers only $15.9 bn per year (or, including eliminating fraudulent Agent Orange compensation, $20.12 bn per year) – a tiny share of the over $100 bn worth of annual defense spending cuts his B2B plan calls for and the amount that the sequester would cut out of defense.
Coburn then cites a lobbyist (!) for Americans for Tax Reform as a credible source. The lobbyist falsely claims that the sequester would cut only $500 bn over 10 years (in reality, it would cut at least $550 bn over a decade, IN ADDITION TO the $487 bn cuts already ordered by the first tier of the BCA). The lobbyist, while admitting that sequestration would cut the core defense budget by $140 bn n FY2013 alone, ridiculously claims that this is
“hardly a huge pill to swallow, ESPECIALLY since the bill doesn’t include limits on supplemental spending. Who’s to say the 050 cut doesn’t just show up in additional supplemental spending? Something to ponder for conservatives who are concerned about ‘deep’ defense cuts.”
These claims are blatant lies. Firstly, a $140 bn annual cut (which would be deeper than even I previously thought) WOULD be a huge pill to swallow. It would amount to more than 26% of the DOD’s core budget for FY2012 ($531 bn) and its requested FY2013 budget ($525 bn). Such cuts would completely gut the military. That is inevitable. They would mean drastic reductions in end-strength, the military’s size, compensation for the troops, maintenance and training funding, and modernization (i.e. very few purchases of new equipment, at a time when the vast majority of the military’s gear is old, obsolete, and worn out and needs to be replaced). There isn’t that much waste in the defense budget. (BTW, ATR’s lobbyists waste more money every year than the DOD does.)
Why won’t these items show up in the supplemental? Because 1) the White House has explicitly prohibited the DOD from doing so; 2) to do that, they would have to increase the ANNUAL supplemental request by $140 bn per year, up from $88.5 bn requested for FY2013, and not even the stupidest Congressman will buy that trick; 3) supplemental funding is shrinking annually and is slated to shrink further every year (to $88.5 bn in FY2013 and $44.5 bn in FY2014) and eventually zero out when the last American troops leave Afghanistan. That shrinkage has been ongoing and will continue regardless of whether sequestration proceeds. Any claim that the DOD will simply move sequestered budget items worth $140 bn PER YEAR to the supplemental is a blatant lie.
That’s something to ponder for those callously unconcerned about the sequester’s deep defense cuts and those who make light of these cuts. But of course, ATR lobbyists are not on Capitol Hill to tell the truth; they are there to lie.
Coburn buys into ATR’s lies, and falsely claims that “regardless of how deep the defense cuts may look, they will never materialize.” This is a blatant lie, as proven above; the supplemental cannot be used to avoid sequestration, and the sequester itself will kick in on Jan. 1st absent Congressional action.
Furthermore, while Coburn admits that sequestration is bad because it would cut everything equally deeply – the necessities along with waste – he falsely claims that “the dollar goal of sequestration (…) was not the problem, just the method.”
He’s completely wrong, however. It’s not just sequestration’s METHOD of cuts that’s bad, it’s the DOLLAR GOAL as well. A $100 bn or $140 bn ANNUAL cut of defense spending would be deeply damaging for America’s defense, as it would cut waste ALONG WITH actual military capabilities and crucial modernization programs. That is an inevitable consequence of such deep budget cuts to an arbitrary figure. There isn’t that much waste even in the DOD. Not even close. As proven by Coburn’s failure to find more than a paltry $20.12 bn in efficiencies. Even under a different method, if required to cut its budget by $100 bn per year, the DOD would HAVE to dramatically cut military capabilities and thus weaken America’s defense. (For specifics, see here.)
Coburn claims that “even with sequestration, defense spending would still increase by 16% over the next ten years compared to 23% without sequestration.” That is a blatant lie. Under sequestration, defense spending will grow by only a few points over this year’s level, and only at the end of the decade. At the start of the decade, it will be dramatically cut, and from then on, will be growing very slowly, not reaching FY2011/2012 levels until FY2019 at the earliest, as proven by the first graph (produced by the CBO) below. As the second graph below (from the Bipartisan Policy Center) shows, under sequestration, defense would be cut to a record low, not seen since before WW2.
Coburn claims that “streamlining will strengthen, not weaken, our national security”, but the massive, reckless defense cuts he advocates (predominantly cuts to military capabilities and modernization, not to DOD waste) would gravely WEAKEN America’s defense and jeopardize national security. He ends this chapter by quoting a proverb saying that all great powers destroy themselves from within, but defense/military spending is not destroying America at all. It constitutes just 19% of the federal budget, a small share. It is not responsible for America’s fiscal woes.
In short, this entire chapter of Coburn’s book is completely worthless and ridiculous. It’s a litany of blatant lies. Conservatives should not waste their money buying that book.
[1] The 2006 QDR, as released by the DOD.
[2] The 2010 QDR, as released by the DOD. The author will send you a copy of both Reviews at request.
[3] Mark Gunzinger, Sustaining America’s Advantage in Long-Range Strike, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2010.

Paul Ryan is right; the generals are wrong; or “how dare you question Obama’s infallible generals”!

Recently, House Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, decided to stop Obama’s process of gutting America’s defense, reject his pseudo-strategy, and pass a budget that adequately funds defense – adequately according to their and their advisors’ judgment, not that of Obama and his penny-pinchers in the Pentagon.

When asked by defense cuts’ supporters why he wants to provide more funding to the DOD than the DOD itself and the Joint Chiefs request, he replied, “I don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice.”

When he said that, the Democrats, other defense cuts’ supporters, and the media went ballistic, claiming that Ryan had called the generals “liars” and had insulted them, and calling on him to apologize. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey himself took umbrage at those words, while still claiming that the DOD developed a strategy first and a budget second when everyone knows it’s not true:

“[Ryan was] calling us, collectively, liars. (…) I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”

But Paul Ryan and other pro-defense Republicans is right, and their critics are dead wrong, for the following reasons.

Firstly, we know that Obama has a habit of pressuring senior generals to change their testimonies to suit their agenda. Just ask 4-star General William Shelton, the commander of USAF’s Space Command, who says Obama pressured him to do just that.

It is quite conceivable that the Joint Chiefs were also pressured to testify, wrongly, that the $487 bn in defense cuts ordered by Obama is survivable.

General Dempsey himself, before he was confirmed, testified that deep defense cuts would weaken defense, that “national security” spending did not cause the deficit problem and that cutting it will not solve it.

More recently, he said, quite correctly, that sequestration of defense spending (the second round of BCA-ordered cuts, totalling another $600 bn) would mean “we would no longer be a global power”. Today, under obvious pressure from the White House and other defense cuts supporters, he claims he was misunderstood and that he only meant that “we wouldn’t be the global power that we know ourselves to be today.”

No, General, that’s not what you originally said. That’s what the White House now tells you to say. I’m sure that if the White House told you “say that the sequester would be harmless”, you would be saying exactly that.

While I wouldn’t call the generals liars or fools, this is not the first time that someone has coached witnesses to deliver a favorable testimony.

Secondly, no matter how hard the generals and civilian DOD bureaucrats may insist to the contrary, the FACT is that Obama’s defense budget cuts mandate drove the pseudo-strategy the DOD issued in January, not the other way around. Obama demanded deep defense cuts, and the DOD had to produce a “strategy” to fit these cuts. That’s what happened, despite the generals’ and civilian bureaucrats’ pretensions to the contrary.

Obama demanded $400 bn in defense cuts on April 13th, 2011, during a budget issues speech at the GWU – long before there even was any talk of a debt ceiling deal. At the time, even his own SECDEF, Robert Gates, was surprised of the defense cuts mandate, and the DOD had to start working out how to implement them. Then, on August 1st, Obama negotiated a debt ceiling deal that mandated $487 bn in cuts from “security spending”, which Obama slapped exclusively on the DOD.

Only later was there any talk of a “strategy” to fit these cuts. Before April 2011, the DOD was not working on any “strategy” and was hoping that the cuts of January 2011 would be the last. Indeed, Gates himself cautioned against any further, let alone deep, additional defense cuts repeatedly, both in DOD briefings and Congressional testimonies. Yet, in April 2011, Obama slapped a $400 bn defense cuts mandate on him and the DOD.

Even if someone claims “the DOD knew for a long time that more budget cuts would be coming”, that doesn’t help them. In fact, it only proves my point. Budget cut mandates came first; the strategy came only later. Thus, the National Journal lied when it claimed

“Ryan’s frank rebuke of the generals came as he repeated an oft-heard Republican complaint: that the fiscal 2013 defense request (…) was not “strategy-driven,” but rather was based on an artificial spending cap imposed by the White House.”

That is not a mere “oft-heard Republican complaint”, that is a FACT. The FY2013 defense budget proposal was NOT strategy driven. It was based on an artificial spending cap that Obama instituted as early as April 2011 – long before there was any “strategy”!

And the DOD’s genuine strategy from just 2 years ago (when budget circumstances were even worse), the 2010 QDR, is quite different from this pseudostrategy. It called for a much larger and more capable military than this pseudostrategy calls for. Did the world become much safer in the last 2 years? No. Obama decided to cut defense even more deeply.

Thirdly, can’t we see it for ourselves that Obama’s new defense cuts would severely weaken the military? They include, inter alia, scrapping one third of the cruiser fleet (the 7 youngest cruisers), retiring 2 amphibious ships and many other vessels, eliminating 7 fighter squadrons, cutting funding for bombers by 40%, eliminating many crucial weapon development programs (including lasers, other directed energy weapons, and railguns), delaying many other crucial weapon programs (including the next-gen cruise missile) and procurements (including SSNs and SSBNs), cutting the shipbuilding plan by 16 vessels, cutting the already-underfunded nuclear-weapon-modernization program by 15%, and cutting 27 strategic and 65 tactical airlifters when the USAF already has too few of them. Anyone with half a brain should understand that this will weaken the military.

Fourthly, the generals are humans, not gods. They are not infallible – no more than I am or you are. As mere humans, they are just as prone to grave error – including a severe error of judgment – as everyone else. It’s time to stop fetishizing generals.

Lastly and most importantly, determining what’s necessary to defend America, and providing the necessary resources, is NOT the generals or the DOD’s job. It’s Congress’ job. The Congress is supposed to make America’s defense policy, and the generals, along with DOD civilians, are supposed to merely execute it. In other words, the Congress makes policy, and the generals are to obey.

The US Constitution vests the prerogatives to “provide for the common defense (…) of the United States”, “to raise and support Armies”, “to provide and maintain a Navy”, to make laws for governing the Armed Forces, to summon and discipline the Militia, to declare war, to punish piracies and felonies on the high seas, and to make appropriations SOLELY in the Congress. The Constitution gives Congress, and ONLY the Congress, the prerogative to make America’s defense policy – to determine both defense budgets AND programs and the force structure (along with bases, deployments, wars, and the UCMJ).

Of course, to make informed decisions, it needs the advice from many sources – and that includes not only serving generals, but also former military officers, independent analysts and study panels (such as the Hadley-Perry Panel), Congressional advisors/analysts, the CRS, and others.

But Congress is supposed to rely, above all, on its own knowledge and sound judgment (if it’s capable of rendering any – and it’s supposed to be). It should NOT fetishize generals and DOD bureaucrats, nor is it supposed to defer to them, let alone to President Obama. It must rely primarily on its own judgment and knowledge, for it, not the generals, is to make defense policy decisions (and take responsibility for them).

This entire  argument has four root causes. One is the understandable, but wrong deference to generals on defense policy caused by the fetish of generals. The second one is the overall worship of supposed “experts” (generals on defense policy, the SCOTUS on the Constitution, the IPCC on “global warming” – remember how skeptics like Jim Inhofe were treated when they questioned the saintly IPCC?) that Americans have been forced to perform since their primary school days. People are taught to blindly listen to “experts” and never question them; if you do, you’re condemned universally. Thirdly, decades ago, the Congress ceded its Constitutional prerogatives on defense policy to the Executive Branch long ago.

And fourthly, as schoolchildren and adults, members of Congress, like all Americans, were constantly taught and told NOT to think for themselves, to rely on others for judgment, and to defer on others on various issues. Such indoctrination not to think independently has caused most of them to be unable, or afraid, to render independent judgment.

And this needs to be corrected. Members of Congress are supposed to think for themselves, not defer to others.

Paul Ryan and HASC Republicans have shown they are capable of doing that. For that, they should be praised, not pilloried.