Tag Archives: sequester

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.

Why the Super Committee has failed

As everyone should know by now, the Super Committee – appointed in August under the terms of the misbegotten debt ceiling deal – has failed to come up with any plan to cut federal spending by $1.5 trillion, so, on top of the $465 bn cuts imposed on the DOD by the deal, a sequester will kick in and cut another $600 bn from the core defense budget.

Many people now say that the Super Committee was doomed to fail from the beginning and that they always knew it. On the first part they are right; on the second part they are arguably wrong (where were they in August, September and October?).

I’m proud that I was one of the few people to recognize at the very beginning that this was a dumb idea from the start and that I always opposed it.

So why did the Super Committee fail?

For the reason stated by Sen. Pat Toomey and conservative media: the Democrats insisted on a tax hike to the tune of at least $1 trillion, knowing full well that Republicans could never agree to that. The Democrats, however, knew that they had the advantage, because the sequester was holding America’s defense hostage, and would gut America’s defense if Republicans did not compromise.

In other words, the Democrats were holding the military hostage to their tax hike demands, threatening to execute the hostage if Republicans did not comply. Now that Republicans have refused to go along with a job-killing tax hike, the Democrats will execute the hostage.

The Super Committee and the sequester were, from the start, designed to force Republicans to choose between tax hikes and defense cuts, and that was because the Democrats who dictated these terms, and President Obama, knew full well that Republicans hate both.

So yes, the Super Committee was doomed to fail from the start, because the Democrats were making demands that Republicans could never accept, and now that Republicans have refused to give in to these demands, the Democrats are going to execute the hostage.

I oppose the sequester and the defense cuts it will make, but I believe Republicans were right not to agree to a job-killing $1 trillion tax hike, and I respect them for not capitulating to the Democrats on this issue.

Guest blogpost by William Rixon: Spencer Ackerman caught lying about the sequester

Hi folks,

A friend of mine has read two ridiculous blogposts by Spencer Ackerman (a leftist hack) in the Danger Room blog, has researched the facts, and sent Ackerman a comprehensive rebuttal by email. He has asked that his rebuttal be published here, as a guest blog post.

– Zbigniew Mazurak


Guest blogpost: Spencer Ackerman caught lying about the sequester

By William Rixon
Below is an email rebuttal I have sent to Ackerman in response to two cretinous blogposts he wrote earlier this month about the impact of the debt ceiling deal (and in particular, the sequester) on the core defense budget. Here it is in full:

Dear Mr Ackerman,

You are receiving this email in reply to your ridiculous, completely wrong Danger Room blogposts regarding the defense spending cuts underway in Washington, and in particular the following two:
You are not known for being credible and politically neutral, and neither is the Danger Room blog, where, as I’ve noticed over the last several months, much garbage gets published routinely. Yet, until recently, I didn’t deem it necessary to respond to that garbage. However, because your most recent rubbish is extremely ridiculous even for you, I believe a response is necessary.
You claim that:
“[Panetta] and his congressional allies will set to work ensuring that those automatic cuts never happen. (…) Panetta has described the automatic cuts, known as “sequestration,” as “this goofy meataxe scenario.” They’ve made the corporate defense giants sputter with rage. The military services predict disaster. And it’s all kabuki. As Danger Room explained earlier this month, the “automatic” cuts don’t go into effect until January 2013. That gives the Pentagon and its allies on Capitol Hill a full year to stop those cuts from happening…”
This is garbage. The sequester will actually kick in at the start of FY2013 – on Oct. 1st, 2012 – long before the next President and Congress will be seated, or even elected. The oft-repeated date of January 2nd, 2013 is incorrect – but even if it was correct, it would still be before the next Congress and 18 days before the next President will be sworn in. Which means that, in any case, this will be an issue for the current Congress and current President to resolve (or not resolve). Secondly, despite your selective quotes of just a few HASC hawks, you can bet that once the sequester makes the cuts it promises to make, the Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) will fight like two alpha male cats in a bag to keep those massive defense cuts. After all, the DOD is the easiest target to cut, as has been proven during the last 2.5 years. Cutting spending on pet projects such as agriculture subsidies and entitlement spending is much harder than cutting defense spending. Moreover, those who believe the Congress will overturn these massive defense cuts only needs to consider the (in)competence of this Congress as exemplified by the Super Committee. They were supposed to do the job (of cutting the deficit) this time. They failed to do it. How can anyone believe they will do the job (of saving the military and finding savings elsewhere) the next time?
Then, you ridiculously continued:
“… all against the backdrop of a presidential election in which no one is going to want to be pegged as soft on defense. Tuesday night, the Republican presidential candidates will debate national security on CNN. Just watch them step over each other to denounce the cuts and pledge to roll them back.”
As President Obama has repeatedly proven, he doesn’t care if he is, and possibly even wants to be, portrayed as weak on defense (which he indeed is), and is in any case attempting to appease his hard-left base. As for Republican presidential candidates, where are those supposed defense hawks? Ron Paul has embraced the sequester’s defense cuts and hopes they will be made. Gary Johnson supports defense cuts beyond those the sequester would make. Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann also support large defense cuts. Herman Cain says that as President, he would order every department without exception to immediately cut its budget by 10% and then by another 10%. Rick Perry’s stance on the sequester is unknown. So that leaves us with only 3 candidates who oppose defense cuts, and of those three, to my knowledge, only Gingrich has publicly denounced the sequester. So this claim of yours is a fantasy. It is true that if Obama doesn’t roll back these defense cuts, he will be portrayed as weak on defense – but he doesn’t care, and even without the sequester, there is much incriminating evidence that proves how weak on defense he is.
Then, you claimed that
“And it’s probably going to be one of the few bipartisan affairs left in Washington. “Arguing for strong defense is a battle-tested mantra for Democrats ever since Clinton was elected,” says Gordon Adams, a former Clinton White House budget official and advocate of steep defense cuts”
This is a lie. The Democrats have already announced they will block any attempt to reduce, let alone completely roll back, the defense cuts the sequester would make. Furthermore, the Democrats have, since the Clinton times, never been arguing for a strong defense. Already during his 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton promised deep defense cuts, and he was elected only because of a split in the GOP, and never won the majority of the popular vote. He, like Obama in 2008, was elected on the basis of economic, not defense, issues (does the “it’s the economy, stupid!” mantra ring any bells?). In 2000 and 2004, Democratic candidates lost the presidential election. The Dems are known as the party of a weak defense, and they deserve that reputation. Furthermore, Adams, who is an utterly-discredited and biased anti-military hack, must believe (as apparently do you) that the American people are idiots who will just buy the “I’m strong on defense” mantra without verifying such a claim and looking at a politician’s record. President Obama’s pre-sequester defense record is enough to portray him as the weak defense President – provided that the GOP nominee will be willing to do that.
Then, you cited Heritage Foundation analyst Mackenzie Eaglen, who is more credible than Adams but nonetheless erred:
“Not every defense hawk thinks avoiding sequestration is the easiest political lay-up. Mackenzie Eaglen, an analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, thinks letting the cuts go through might help President Obama’s reeelection. “He could run against sequestration and say the ‘Republican Congress’ did it,” Eaglen says. “Something like: ‘See? Look what they made me do!’ President Obama has already gone on record saying he doesn’t support defense cuts at a sequestration level so he can say Congress is hurting the military, not him.””
This is clearly wrong. Obama has already stated he supports the defense cuts the sequester would make as a “poison pill” for the Super Committee and a punishment for that Committee for not reaching a deal. He has promised to veto any attempt to abolish the sequester or at least to protect defense from its impact. Moreover, as most people know, the reason why the Super Committee failed is because the Democrats demanded a massive $1 trillion tax hike, as did President Obama, knowing full well that Republicans could not accept it (because it would gut the economy). He won’t be able to blame Republicans credibly. If the sequester is triggered, he will get the blame – and deservedly so. The question is whether the eventual nominee will be willing to exploit that.
You then commented:

Maybe. But that would require congressional Republicans to acquiesce to the cuts, which is unlikely. The Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Buck McKeon, took his gavel by swearing that defense cuts were a “red line” for him. And that was before the Pentagon’s chorus of outrage over sequestration.”
Oh, really? Really unlikely? Congressional Republicans have already accepted six rounds of defense cuts since Obama has taken office (including the New START treaty, which 13 Republican Senators voted for).

“All of which likely means that massive defense cuts were never really on the table anyway. Even in the face of giant deficits, cutting the defense budget requires debating what U.S. national security strategy ought to be, not shoehorning defense cuts into a political bargain that doesn’t materialize.”

Wrong. Massive defense cuts have already occurred. They began with the closure of over 50 weapon programs in 2009 and 2010, a decision which then-Secretary Gates cut $330 bn from defense budget projections. Then there was the New START treaty, which is cutting America’s nuclear arsenal while allowing Russia to add nuclear weapons. Then there were the $78 bn cuts of January 2011, despite your denials that they took place. Then there was the debt ceiling deal of April 2011, which cut defense spending in real terms. And the first round of the defense cuts ordered by the BCA will excise $465 bn from the defense budget over the next 10 years, i.e. $46.5 bn per decade, starting this fiscal year. By the Heritage Foundation’s count, defense has been cut by $754 bn since President Obama took office. If those are not massive defense cuts, then the term has no meaning.

And as your update proves, even Sec. Panetta has now begun to weaken. As it turns out, he doesn’t oppose the sequestration mechanism… just the cuts that it would make to defense… but even now, he opposes attempts to undo the sequester or at least protect defense from its impact. President Obama’s pressure is evident.

You advertise your previous blog post, which calls the sequester a “myth”, wherein, in one of the first paragraphs, you claim “there are lots of ways the Pentagon can still save its bloated budget, much like the kids on Elm Street always stave off Freddy Krueger.”

That claim is a blatant lie, just like the vast majority of what you write on the DR blog. The defense budget is not bloated by any objective measure. In raw dollar numbers, it is currently $530 bn under the CR, but will have to be cut to $513 bn as a consequence of the first part of the debt ceiling deal. The former figure amounts to 3.50% and the latter to just 3.49% of America’s GDP (which is $14.66 trillion), and both are therefore microscopic. These are the lowest shares of America’s GDP devoted to defense since FY1948 (excluding the late 1990s, a fact Gordon Adams is desperately trying to hide). Throughout the entire Cold War except FY1948, defense spending consumed a higher share of GDP, so by your own standard all defense budgets of the Cold War (including that for FY1948, which was also 3.50% of GDP) were bloated. The core defense budget also amounts to less than 15% of the total federal budget, a share even smaller than it was during the Clinton era. Even counting spending on Iraq, Afghanistan, and the DOE’s defense-related programs won’t help your claim – the corresponding figures for it are, respectively, $630 bn (per the Defense Appropriations Bill passed by the SAC), 4.6% of GDP and 18-19% of the total federal budget. And no, the DOD won’t save its budget, even if the sequester is not triggered. As stated above, the core defense budget will be cut in real terms even without the sequester. With the sequester, of course, the cuts (in real terms) will be much deeper.

Then, after presenting Adams as some ultra-credible source, you claimed that:

““But the sequester itself — the act of lowering available resources — won’t happen until January 2013. It’s justannounced in January 2012, but it doesn’t actually happen until January 2013.””

That lie has already been dealt with, but it should also be noted that the DOD operates on the basis of long-term plans, which means that every step and every decision – budgetary, programmatic, or otherwise – is planned years in advance. Therefore, as soon as the deadline passes (tomorrow), the DOD will have to start planning for a post-sequester military, i.e. begin making all the cuts it will have to make under the sequester – close programs, reduce weapon arsenals, pink-slip troops, cancel contracts, and so forth. And once these cuts are made, they will be hard, and in some cases impossible, to reverse (e.g. a shipyard, once closed because of a lack of orders, will not reopen itself when the DOD will finally get enough money to buy ships). So, the oft-repeated claim (which you have repeated on your blog multiple times, and which Adams is also propagating) that defense cuts will wait until January 2013 is a blatant lie. The DOD will have to close programs and pink-slip troops at the beginning of the next calendar year.

You then invoked the upcoming presidential election as supposed “proof” that sequestration will not happen, but that fantasy has already been dealt with above.

Then, you quoted Adams’ lies that

““In those circumstances, I don’t think the sequester will ever happen,” says Adams — even if the Supercommittee fails and sequester becomes allegedly “automatic.” Congress and Obama will have a full year to change the law, something that many in Congress already want to do.”

But that is only his opinion – the opinion of an utterly discredited, biased, anti-defense leftist from an utterly discredited Administration. So it’s irrelevant. Furthermore, the sequester is not “allegedly automatic”,it is automatic as per the BCA. That is the law of the land. Congress and Obama will have less than a year to change the law, and Obama has already promised to veto ANY attempts to change it, and in particular, to eliminate the sequester or at least spare defense from its impact.

You then lied that

“Think about it. In order for sequestration to happen, both history and the current political environment would have to be defied. (…) In other words, for the Defense Department to really face its nightmare scenario, the laws of political and legislative gravity would have to be suspended.”

This is clearly wrong. The history of America’s defense spending – since you’ve invoked it – speaks against you. Defense spending was cut severely in the 1940s, in the 1970s, in the 1990s, and – less severely, but nonetheless significantly – in the 1950s and under President Obama. If Washington could gut the military three times, it can surely do so now, as I saw first-hand when I served in the military in the 1970s, during and after the Vietnam War. The current political environment consists of President Obama, Democrats zealous to protect domestic programs and cut defense, and Congressional Republicans who routinely capitulate to Obama’s demands.

Your invocation of Congressional Republicans and of defense industry lobbyists in the paragraph are omitted is so pathetic and so desperate it’s not even worth quoting. They have a 0-6 record of losing against President Obama and the Democrats. It’s unlikely they will win this time.

You also claimed that:

“Those cuts, you’ll recall,made outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates uneasy almost as soon as Obama announced them in April — and Gates was the guy who had to experience kabuki Congressional angst that his “efficiencies initiative,” which cut no money out of the defense budgetwas itself too big a “cut.” That all seems like a fading dream. The Budget Control Act and the Supercommittee it created changed the terms of the debate. The ten-year, $450 billion (or $463 billion, or $350 billion, depending on whose numbers you trust, the Pentagon’s or Congress’) in cuts it imposed turned into a baseline. The prospect of sequestration became the bigger danger: cuts that would add another $500 billion or so on top of the existing ones. That’s why McHugh now tells defense reporters “we’re pretty confident we can accommodate” the $450 billion cut.”

Evidently you never bothered to listen to Gates. Gates was always of the opinion that the $400 bn cut (which Obama announced in April, when no one was even thinking about a debt ceiling deal), which later grew to $450 bn as a result of the debt ceiling deal, was painful, hard to execute, and necessitating tough choices, but nonetheless survivable, whereas the sequestration would gut the military. His successor, as well as the Service Chiefs, have been saying the same all along.

Taking cues from Adams, who seems to be your only source, you further quoted him as saying

“A $450 billion cut “is an eight percent projected decline over ten years,” Adams explains. “That’s laughably easy to live with. That’s absurd. You know what a trillion dollars would be? [A decline of] 17 percent of projected resources. Even $1 trillion — a ‘doomsday, oh my God, security will fail all over the map’ [scenario] — is just 17 percent of projected resources.””

Both of his claims are lies. Firstly, the $465 bn cut will not be “absurd” nor “laughably easy to live with”. What is absurd and laughable is making claims like those Adams makes. The $465 bn cut, as testified by Panetta, will impose real pain on the military, and reportedly, more than half of that cut will come from weapon programs. But defense cuts will not stop there. The sequester is now guaranteed to kick in, which means that defense will be cut by another $600 bn, in other words, by $1.065 TRILLION over the next decade, and contrary to Adams’ claim, this will be more than 20% of the core defense budget. (GWOT spending will be unaffected, but is slated to shrink automatically as US troops withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan). So Adams’ claims are, as always, blatant lies.

“The generals aren’t stupid. Neither is Panetta. Neither is McHugh. By publicly warning that sequestration would be “catastrophic,” they’re increasing the pressure on Congress to roll back sequestration in 2012 if it does occur. For the Pentagon, it’s not a budgetary nightmare. It’s a dream that’s very likely to come true.”

It’s hard to see how sequestration would be a dream. And if by the “dream” you meant rolling back sequestration, you’re wrong again, for the reasons stated above.

So each of your lies, and those of Gordon Adams, have been debunked. You are as ignorant as you are arrogant. Do you realize that you discredit yourself and DR with every ridiculous blog post you write? You would be well advised not to write about defense issues any longer. Further garbage posts about these issues will only serve to discredit you further.


William Rixon


COMMENT BY ZBIGNIEW MAZURAK: Rixon send his letter to Ackerman before the debate. The debate has now been held, and Ackerman was utterly disproven, as usual. Not one candidate, not even one, pledged to undo the cuts that the sequester could make, although Rick Perry and Mitt Romney – alone among the 8 Republican candidates on stage – did criticize them in deservedly harsh terms. But even they didn’t pledge to undo these defense cuts.