Tag Archives: Ronald

Defense: What would Reagan do?

Today is Reagan’s 100th birthday.

An often-asked question is “What would Reagan do?”

As America is struggling with $1.4 trillion annual budget deficits (and the deficit planned by Obama for FY2011 will raise the debt-to-GDP ratio to 100% if federal spending is not significantly reduced), the Congress and the nation are pondering what to do about defense spending – whether to reduce it or not. Many people, however, don’t ask whether to reduce defense spending, but how deeply to reduce it.

And what would Reagan do? Would he call for reductions of defense spending if he was alive today?

Because he’s no longer alive, it isn’t possible to say for 100% sure what he would do or say. But it is possible to say what he would probably do, on the basis of what he actually did or said while he was President.

When Ronald Reagan assumed office, the budget deficit was also big – it amounted to 6% of GDP! Nonetheless, Ronald Reagan chose NOT to reduce defense spending, as some people (e.g. William Kaufmann) called on him to do. He chose to increase it while shrinking domestic federal spending (e.g. by closing the Education Department and the DOE). He increased defense spending by 35%, from ca. $400 bn in FY1981 to ca. $554 bn in FY1985, and from 4.7% of GDP in FY1981 to 6.2% of GDP in FY1986. In fact, even during FY1981, Reagan and his Defense Secretary, the Honorable Caspar Weinberger, asked for and obtained a “supplemental” to the defense budget, because the defense budget devised by the Carter Administration was inadequate.

Dr Kim Holmes, Vice President of the Heritage Foundation, wrote in the WaTimes:

“On national defense, the lessons are clear. Reagan came to office after years of neglect of our armed forces and launched a military buildup that we live off to this day. He let the threats, not the bottom line, determine defense spending. He revived the B-1 bomber program that President Carter canceled and initiated many other defense programs. He famously told his military planners, “Defense is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.”And by the time he left office, he boosted defense spending 35 percent.

If not for Reagan‘s military buildup, we would not have had the advanced weaponry and excellent fighting force that won the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars with historically low U.S. casualties.”

Please note that, folks. Reagan said, “Defense is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.” That is because America’s defense budget should be based on the real needs of the military, not on artificial budgetary restrictions imposed by the OMB. Of course, the military should not get more money than it really needs, but during Reagan’s time, it did not, and nowadays, it doesn’t, either. The FY2011 defense budget ($525 bn) is actually inadequate.

Reagan was willing to spend whatever was necessary on defense, but not a cent more.

His budget recommendations were based on what his Joint Chiefs told him, NOT on what pacifist politicians like Barney Frank claimed was the real requirement. Reagan accepted the expert advice of his Joint Chiefs of Staff and his Secretary of Defense, although he did think independently.

Would Reagan endorse the defense cuts imposed by the Obama Administration and its mediocre Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who has never seen war)?

The answer is no. During the 1970s, Reagan saw crucial weapon programs cut or closed. When he became president, he reestablished them and started some new ones (e.g. the SDI). If he were alive today, he would’ve opposed the closures of the F-22, C-17, MKV, KEI, CSARX, NLOS, and European missile defense programs, and the cuts of the Airborne Laser, F-35, Ground Based Interceptor, and carrier replacement programs. He would’ve opposed Gates’ delays of the Next Generation Bomber program (de facto dictated by the OMB) and the ludicrous 2010 NPR and BMDR. He would’ve protested against the large force structure reductions conducted by the Bush and Obama Administrtions.

And what about the New START treaty? Would Reagan have signed it as it is now, or would he have rejected it?

Reagan called for a world without nuclear weapons, but in such a world, the US was to be protected by a vast missile defense network which would’ve negated the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal (not to mention the Chinese arsenal). This was the very goal of the SDI. The New START treaty not only calls for reductions of America’s nuclear arsenal and its arsenal of delivery systems down to inadequate levels, it also greatly restricts America’s missile defense. Moreover, even before the treaty was signed, Obama unilaterally gave up many missile defense programs, including the ABL, MKV, KEI, GBI and European missile defense programs (the latter was surrendered as a part of the price of Moscow’s signature of the treaty). Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave.

Reagan’s arms reduction treaty negotiators, including his chief negotiator General Ed Rowny, and many other former diplomats and Reagan Administration officials, including Ed Meese and Frank Gaffney, protested against this disastrous treaty.

So, what would Reagan do? He would’ve opposed reductions of defense spending. He would’ve opposed the Obama-dictated closures of crucial weapon programs. He would’ve opposed the New START treaty.

As the US celebrates Reagan’s 100th birthday, it is necessary to learn lessons from him and follow his guidance when determining America’s defense policies.


The opponents of a strong defense haven’t surrendered

The 100th birthday of the late Ronald Reagan – America’s Defender-in-Chief – will be tomorrow, and the opponents of a strong defense haven’t surrendered yet. Quite the contrary, their anti-defense rages have worsened.

Take the libertarian Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. Apparently, he hasn’t noticed that 81.5% of all federal spending is civilian spending (and 56% of the entire federal budget is composed of entitlements), so he’s advocating deep defense cuts, and recently, in a letter to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he urged them to advocate deep defense budget cuts while threatening to vote against any legislation that does not reduce defense spending. Moreover, the senator from Oklahoma, who can’t even shave his face properly, falsely claimed in that letter that if the federal budget is to be balanced, “the defense budget must be reduced”, and advertised the hatchet job produced by the utterly discredited Deficit Reduction Commission (of which he was a member), saying that this was the conclusion reached by “leaders from across the political spectrum”.

The defense budget does not have to be reduced, and should not be reduced. As for the hatchet job produced by the DRC – about which I’ve already written a post on this blog – it was a biased, dishonest, politically motivated report that singled out ONLY THE DOD for deep budget reductions, while allowing civilian federal agencies to skate with only minor budget cuts.

It called for a $100 bn per year reduction of defense spending, i.e. a reduction of the defense budget by almost 20%, massive cuts of equipment (modernization) spending, and cuts or closures of many crucial weapon programs, including the V-22 Osprey program (a proven rotorcraft type absolutely necessary to replace CH-46s and C-2s, to which it is vastly superior), the JLTV program, the Joint Tactical Radio program, and the F-35 program (the Marine variant would be cancelled, the orders for the Air Force and Navy variants would be reduced by half). Its recommendations would mean doom for the military. And that’s exactly what the commission wanted. Its recommendations were designed to severely weaken the military. Why? Because the vast majority of its members are strident pacifists, i.e. people IDEOLOGICALLY opposed to a strong defense. They oppose a strong defense for ideological reasons. Their recommendations were ideologically motivated.

The NTU and the PIRG have called for similar, but deeper, defense reductions, including all of the above cuts as well as the closure of the entire F-35 program (rather than a reduction of orders for F-35s) and a huge, $148.5 bn 6-year reduction of funds for DOD spare parts, which would practically mean that the DOD would not have any money to buy spare parts, which would mean that its aircraft, ships and ground vehicles would not be able to fly. In the NTU-PIRG report, similarly, the DOD was to bear the brunt of federal spending cuts, while other agencies would see their budgets shrink only by a smidgen.

Rep. Andrews lied at about 24:30 that the military budget has tripled since FY2001. It hasn’t. It hasn’t even doubled since then. In FY2001, the defense budget was (according to the Air Force Magazine and Clinton’s own defense budget request) $291.1 bn in 2000 dollars (the budget was requested, approved by the Congress, and signed into law in 2000), i.e. $368.62 bn in 2010 dollars. The FY2010 military budget was ca. $672.76 bn (a $542.76 bn base budget plus a $130 bn GWOT/OCO budget). To double since FY2001, annual defense spending would have to grow to $736 bn. To triple since FY2001, it would have to grow to over $1 trillion! It hasn’t. In FY2010 it was $672.76 bn and this FY, under the ConRes, it’s $685 bn (a $525 bn base budget plus a $160 bn GWOT supplemental). The base defense budget hasn’t even doubled (let alone tripled) in nominal terms (i.e. in dollars not adjusted for inflation).

Hey, Congressman Andrews, do the math!

Rep. Randy Forbes lied that the annual military budget is over $700 bn. It isn’t. The biggest military budget America has ever had is the current one ($685 bn). America has never had a $700 bn military budget. Not this fiscal year. Not ever.


Other opponents claim that the USMC doesn’t need to be an amphibious service and doesn’t need amphibious vehicles at all. This is false, because the USMC has been conducting amphibious assaults ever since it was established in the 1790s. Please read this:


Rep. Johnson claimed that the DOD will have to be a part of “reducing the budget deficit”. No, it will not have to be, although, if history is any guide, Congress will likely use the Pentagon as a piggy bank to reduce the deficit created by bloated DOMESTIC spending.

If Ronald Reagan were alive today, he would’ve vehemently opposed proposals to reduce the defense budget (which is already smaller, in real and percentage-of-GDP terms alike, smaller than when he was President). As reported by Dr Kim Holmes, a Heritage Foundation expert, Reagan said to his generals, “Defense is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.”

Reducing the defense budget is neither necessary to balance the federal budget nor militarily advisable. Such a policy would weaken the military while not balancing the budget nor even significantly reducing it. Congress, please note that.

The irresponsible defense budget reducers vs Ronald Reagan

The opponents of a strong defense have not given up. Recently, several of them have once again opened their uninformed mouths and proposed deep defense budget cuts.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has proposed a 6% reduction of the defense budget. Rep. Jan Schakowsky has called for deep defense budget cuts (which the Illinois Democrat wants to be spent on liberal sacred cows, not used to balance the budget). A DOD-accredited liberal journalist called “Yushio” has called on the DOD to implement the recommendations of the utterly-discredited Deficit Reduction Commission, calling it “serious recommendations of serious people”.

All of them are wrong.

The DRC was composed mostly of unserious people: strident liberals like Erskine Bowles (Clinton’s WH Chief of Staff), then-Senator Judd Gregg (RINO-NH) and former Senator Alan Simpson (RINO-WY), as well as the libertarian anti-defense Senator from Oklahoma Tom Coburn. Their recommendations were unserious. They targeted ONLY the DOD for serious spending reductions; all other federal agencies would see their budgets reduced only slightly, with their budget cuts all combining to produce $100 bn of annual savings, while the DOD alone would have to produce another $100 bn of annual savings. The DRC called on Obama to close many crucial programs and to dramatically reduce the categories of defense spending that shouldn’t be reduced: the procurement budget and the R&D budget. It also embraced the isolationist policy of a “Fortress America” by calling for massive withdrawals of American troops from foreign countries.

The DOD’s budget ($525 bn in FY2011) is so small (just 14.87% of the total federal budget) that even deep reductions of it would not even dent the federal budget deficit ($1.29 trillion in FY2010), but they would gravely weaken the military.

An often-asked question is “What would Ronald Reagan do?” As for proposals of defense spending reductions and other proposals to weaken the US military, the answer is crystal clear: Ronald Reagan, the military’s Defender-in-Chief, the Strong-Defense-Conservative-in-Chief, the military’s Commander-in-Chief for 8 years, would’ve said “NO!” loudly and clearly.

And during his two terms, that is exactly what he was saying. He was called on by many people and organizations to dramatically reduce defense spending in order to balance the budget or (in the case of liberals) to prop up the socialist programs that liberals cherish. And during his time, liberals and libertarians were constantly exaggerating the size of the defense budget and the scale of waste and fraud that was being perpetrated.

What did Reagan do?

He firmly opposed defense spending reductions and pointed out the facts about the real size of the defense budget and the scale of waste and fraud. He also implemented – together with his Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger – a sweeping reform of the DOD and informed the nation of its results. Even when the budget deficit was growing, Reagan rightly refused to cut defense spending to reduce the budget deficit. And when the Congress passed a significantly reduced budget deficit, Reagan vetoed it as inadequate.

As Ronald Reagan said:

“Some people may take a different view, but if I had to choose the single most important reason, on the United States’ side, for the historic breakthroughs that were to occur during the next five years in the quest for peace and a better relationship with the Soviet Union, I would say it was the Strategic Defense Initiative, along with the overall modernization of our military forces.”

Of course, as stated above, Reagan also implemented a sweeping reform of the DOD. It entailed the abolition of unnecessary stuff and the elimination of all examples of waste. Here’s what Reagan said on the subject:

“During my 1980 campaign, I called federal waste and fraud a national scandal. We knew we could never rebuild America’s strength without first controlling the exploding cost of defense programs, and we’re doing it. When we took office in 1981, costs had been escalating at an annual rate of 14 percent. Then we began our reforms. And in the last two years, cost increases have fallen to less than 1 percent. We’ve made huge savings. Each F-18 fighter costs nearly $4 million less today than in 1981. One of our air-to-air missiles costs barely half as much.
Getting control of the defense bureaucracy is no small task. Each year the Defense Department signs hundreds of thousands of contracts. So yes, a horror story will sometimes turn up despite our best efforts. That’s why we appointed the first Inspector General in the history of the Defense Department. And virtually every case of fraud or abuse has been uncovered by our Defense Department, our Inspector General. Secretary Weinberger should be praised, not pilloried, for cleaning the skeletons out of the closet. As for those few who have cheated taxpayers or have swindled our Armed Forces with faulty equipment, they are thieves stealing from the arsenal of democracy, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Both quotes are from his February 1986 speech on defense issues. (http://reagan2020.us/speeches/address_on_national_security.asp)

So, even as Reagan significantly increased the overall defense budget, he reduced the unit costs of weapons and implemented a sweeping reform of the DOD, rooting out wasteful programs and expenditures. An increased defense budget did NOT mean relaxed fiscal discipline.

10 days from now, the nation will observe Reagan’s 100th birthday. A few weeks later, it will mark the 25th anniversary of that speech on defense issues. It’s ironic that as these anniversaries are approaching, a growing number of people are endorsing or proposing defense spending cuts and other policies to weaken the US military.

If the GOP wants to restore its credibility, it must say “no” to any proposals to reduce the overall defense budget.

UPDATE: Here’s info from Dr Kim Holmes, Vice President of the Heritage Foundation, about what would Reagan do today on the question of the defense budget: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jan/26/holmes-what-would-reagan-do/