Tag Archives: sequestration

Don’t believe their promises about defense cuts

“Trust us”, they say. “Trust us. This time will be different. This time defense cuts won’t gut defense.”

This is what the supporters of deep defense cuts are essentially telling the public and the Congress while clamoring for deep (and ever-deeper) defense cuts. Some of them even admit that the defense cuts that followed the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold War were deep, and some of them even admit they were harmful. But they claim that this time it will be different; that this time the cuts won’t be so deep and won’t hurt the military at all.

Do you believe them? I don’t, and you shouldn’t, either.

Let’s consider both their track record with previous rounds of defense cuts and those defense cuts that are now pending.

Defense was deeply cut from 37% of GDP in FY1944 to just 3.5% of GDP in FY1948. The Army was cut so badly that it became “unable to fight its way out of a paper bag”, according to then-CJS General Omar Bradley. The Marine Corps and the Navy were deeply cut and barely survived SECDEF Louis Johnson’s attempt to eliminate them. The Marines were so deeply cut that the Task Force Smith they assembled for Korean War was a hodgepodge of hollow military units. Even the new Air Force was too small.

The result was that the military was completely prepared for Communist aggression, which these defense cuts encouraged and contributed to causing. The military was completely unprepared for the Korean War. As Secretary Panetta has rightly said:

“The Korean War caught America unprepared.  The mighty military machine that had liberated Europe and conquered the Japanese Empire had been rapidly demobilized.  Only a few years of serious cuts and under-investment had left us with a hollow force.

The American soldiers and the Marines initially sent to Korea were poorly equipped, without winter clothing, without sleeping bags, with insufficient ammunition, inadequate weapons, including bazookas that weren’t strong enough to stop a North Korean tank. (…)

As we honor the service and sacrifices of America’s Korean War veterans, I believe it’s important that we remember a crucial lesson from that war.  Too many American troops paid a heavy price in Korea because they were not provided with the necessary training and the right weapons.  They were sent into a tough fight with little preparation.  Only a few short years after World War II, dramatic cuts to the force made us lose our edge – even though the world remained a dangerous place.

That is a mistake that we will not make again.  And that’s why today, coming out of a decade of war, we have put forward a strategy-driven defense budget to meet the challenges of the future.  The world remains a dangerous place, and America must maintain the decisive military edge.  We must remain the most powerful military power on the face of the earth.  With this strategy, we will not only have the strongest military, but make no mistake: we will be ready to deter aggression – anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”

Defense was cut deeply again after the Korean War. The result was that the US was unprepared for the space and missile race begun by the Soviets in 1957 with their launch of the Sputnik. However, because even after the cuts the defense budget was still relatively large (10% of GDP) and because the US nuclear arsenal was expanded eighteenfold (from 1,000 to 18,000 nuclear warheads, along with their delivery systems), the US was still able to defend itself and its allies.

Defense was cut deeply again during and after the Vietnam War, starting in FY1969. Beginning at that time, against President Nixon’s wishes, they undercut the military in the midst of war and made an otherwise winnable war unwinnable, according to Nixon. After the war, they gutted the military so badly that it had planes that couldn’t fly, ships that couldn’t sail (for a lack of spare parts and poor maintenance due to underfunding), and a poorly trained, hollow force. There wasn’t even enough ammunition for training, so troops had to shout “bang! bang” during wargames.

The US fielded no new bomber from 1962 to 1986. It fielded no new IBCM from 1976 to 1986. By the late 1970s, the Soviet Union gained a huge lead in tactical nuclear arms and intermediate range missiles and warheads while also growing its strategic arsenal and deploying 5 different new ICBM types to America’s one (Minuteman III). It also grew its conventional arsenal exponentially, deploying, in large quantities, weapons of similar or sometimes better quality than the US. While the USSR fielded new, superior generations of strategic and conventional weapons – in large quantities – the US military was forced to use shrinking quantities of older weapons because crucial next-generation weapon programs were being cut or cancelled outright (e.g. the B-1).

Morale, recruitment, and retention in the military were low. In fact, the military couldn’t retain 50% of its E-1 and E-2 troops after their first contract expired, i.e. retention rates for these paygrades below 50%. Crime and drug abuse were rampant in the military. And there were no next-generation bombers or ICBMs in development from 1977 to 1981, because the Carter Admin cowed to its leftist, pacifist voters. Listen to Ronald Reagan recount the disaster the 1970s’ defense cuts caused.

Defense was cut deeply again after 1988. From FY1989 to FY1999, when it bottomed out, it was cut – according to various estimates – by 26% to 35%. According to former CJCS Colin Powell, it was cut by 25% in his four years as Chairman alone. The result?

The military was gutted again. Everything was deeply cut: the force structure, modernization,  and funding for operations, maintenance, and training (thus hurting readiness). There was so little funding for tank crew training, for example, that tankmen had to use golf carts to practice tank tactics (as confirmed by LTCOL Allen West). By the 1990s, the military Ronald Reagan had built, with so much effort, taxpayer investment, and care, was gone, decimated by reckless defense cuts. The nuclear deterrent was deeply cut – but nuclear proliferation around the world got worse. The force structure of the military was cut, over these 12 years, by about half, and has been cut even deeper since then. As stated above, funding for training and modernization was also deeply cut – leaving the military totally unprepared for the 21st century and unable to defeat opponents more sophisticated than the Taleban and Saddam. The force structure still hasn’t recovered to this day.

Today, the Defense Department is undergoing its 5th round of cuts since 2009 (not counting New START), and will have to undergo a much deeper, sixth one (sequestration) if current law isn’t changed. Taken together, the cuts mandated by the first tier of the Budget Control Act, plus sequestration, plus cuts resulting from withdrawal from Afghanistan, would cut the military budget by 29%, deeper than the cuts following the end of the Vietnam and the Cold Wars. This at a time when the vast majority of the US military’s weapons are obsolete and nearing the ends of their service lifetimes and thus require replacement by new weapons.

And yet, people think that the military won’t be gutted?

Moreover, today’s military personnel are more expensive to maintain than the conscription-based military of the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1970s, and technologically-superior weapons are more expensive to acquire than their previous-generation counterparts (which, for their part, are much more expensive to maintain in the long run due to their old age).

Today, when it comes to defense cuts, including sequestration, if the facts that I’ve already presented on this blog are not enough for us to make up our minds, we have to choose whom to believe.

We can believe real generals of the military – guys who collectively have a few centuries worth of military experience under their belts, who have actually led American troops into battle (vide Generals Dempsey and Amos) or served on SSBNs in a nuclear deterrence mission (Adm. Greenert), and who know military issues better than anyone else alive, save for their retired four-star colleagues.

Or we can believe armchair generals such as biased anti-defense hacks at POGO, the CDI, the Soros-funded “Center for American Progress”, the Murray-Rothbard-founded CATO Institute, and other leftist organizations.

Which of them do you believe, folks?


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.

Who is responsible for sequestration?

Unless the Congress acts and cancels sequestration, it wll hit the defense budget deeply on Jan. 2nd, 2013, cutting an additional $60 bn per year out of it, on top of the $48.7 bn in annual cuts already ordered by the first tier of the debt ceiling deal. If that happens, the US military will be completely gutted. Therefore, it is necessary to ask the question: who is/will be responsible for that?

A lot of people and groups are responsible for that sorry state of affairs, but here’s a partial list:

Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats, who demanded, in negotiations on the debt ceiling deal, that defense be subjected to deep cuts and sequestration be created as a form of blackmail to get Republicans to agree to tax hikes, and who still, to this day, insist on using the sequester as such.

Those Congressional Republicans who voted for the debt ceiling deal (only a few dared to vote against it), thus agreeing to Obama and the Democrats’ unacceptable demands, thus allowing them to take defense hostage and allowing themselves to be blackmailed.

The 12 members of the Super Committee who, faced with a deadline, a sequester threatening to execute the military, and with a mandate to find $120 bn in annual savings in the $3.6 trillion annual federal budget, could not agree on ANY savings, and thus triggered the sequester.

The special interest groups (such as ATR), columnists (such as James Capretta and Larry Kudlow), and extremist politicians (such as Jerrold Nadler) who insisted that no deal was better than a deal they wouldn’t like and who openly wished the Supercommittee failure.

The special interest groups (again, including ATR) who insisted, and continue to insist, that their sacred cows (tax loopholes in ATR’s and similar groups’ case, entitlements in liberal groups’ case) be off the table during any deficit reduction discussions, even though these are the real drivers of America’s deficits and debt and any proposal that doesn’t address them is not serious.

The liberal media (most notoriously, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, the NY Slimes, and the Associated Press) which conducted, and continue to conduct, a despicable smear campaign against the military and the DOD, lying about defense spending and programs, falsely claiming that sequestration would only be a cut in the rate of growth, and that there would be no adverse national security consequences of sequestration.

Those individuals and groups which have pressured, and continue to pressure, the Congress to leave the sequester intact and allow it to whack defense.

These people and groups are responsible for what wiill be the worst national security disaster in US history if sequestration proceeds. They need to be shamed, ostracized, and stripped of any influence on politics.

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.