Archive for Friday, August 5, 2011

Military money on chopping block in austere time

August 5, 2011


— The Pentagon got nearly everything it asked for during a decade of two wars shadowed by the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the rise of al-Qaida. No more.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen acknowledged that reality Thursday, saying the military is resigned to budget cuts of around $350 billion over a decade to meet the public clamor for reducing the nation’s debt. But they quickly warned that more than doubling those cuts along the lines of the “doomsday mechanism” spelled out in the new debt-limit law would undermine the military.

“If it happened — and, God willing, that would not be the case — but if it did happen, it would result in a further round of very dangerous cuts across the board, defense cuts that I believe would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our military’s ability to protect the nation,” Panetta told reporters at his first Pentagon news conference.

Mullen, who has said repeatedly that the debt is the greatest national security threat, said any cut on that order “jeopardizes our ability to deal with the other very real and very serious threats we face around the world.”

Reflecting the widespread demand for fiscal austerity, the compromise debt deal struck by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders this week will slice $350 billion from projected military spending over the next 10 years, and it leaves open the possibility of more than $500 billion in additional reductions.

Defense spending, which has nearly doubled in the last decade, is no longer untouchable in Washington.

Tea partyers and fierce fiscal conservatives in Congress are more willing to include Pentagon dollars in their mix of budget cuts despite opposition from veteran defense hawks. The death of Osama bin Laden, the diminished role of al-Qaida and the winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted some lawmakers to question the need for such robust military spending.

Among the things that could be on the block: A troubled new jet fighter, expensive plans to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal and perhaps some of the gold-plated benefits now guaranteed to military retirees.

“I think programs that can’t meet schedule, that can’t meet cost ... requirements are very much in jeopardy and will be very much under scrutiny,” Mullen said.

The prospect of nearly $1 trillion in cuts unnerves military leaders, troubles lawmakers protective of the Pentagon and has touched off a scramble in the defense industry as contractors look to spare their multibillion-dollar weapons programs.

In sounding an alarm, Panetta is pressuring Democrats and Republicans to consider making concessions on their core priorities — entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security defended by Democrats, and increases in taxes resisted by Republicans — before taking a sharper knife to defense. The former Democratic congressman and budget chief in the Clinton administration delivered a clear message to leaders of both parties.

“You cannot deal with the size deficits that this country is confronting by simply cutting the discretionary side of the budget,” said Panetta. “If you’re going to deal with those size deficits, you’ve got to look at the mandatory side of the budget, which is two-thirds of the federal budget, and you also have to look at revenues as part of that answer.”

Just back from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen faced repeated questions from troops worried that their pay and benefits would be cut.

“Our men and women downrange have enough to worry about just getting the job done,” Mullen said Thursday. “They shouldn’t also be concerned about whether or not they will be paid to do that job, or whether or not their families will continue to get the support they need during long absences.”


uncleandyt 6 years, 8 months ago

$350B over a decade ? ouch ! Someone's gonna have to live without being bombed. Are you willing to not think about that enormously robust sacrifice ? Maybe a faith-based initiative could be started so's our slaughter rate will not suffer. Who wants pizza?

tbaker 6 years, 8 months ago

There is "defense" spending and then there is "military" spending. The two are quite different. Congress should take care not to cut the later.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

So, you are saying that we shouldn't worry about defense, but make sure we spend $trillions on neocolonialism?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 8 months ago

If the choice is neocolonialism on the one hand or watch various (tribes, ethnicities, races, religions, etc.) slaughter each other while we do nothing, which is worse? In my mind, it really is a devil's choice.

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

I think you mean "former", don't you?

It makes more sense to maintain our spending on actual defense of our country.

tbaker 6 years, 8 months ago

No. Military spending is just that - spending money on our armed forces. Defense spending (real squishy term) means all kinds of nonsense that gets lumped in DoD's budget. Financing war(s), sending money and arms to "allies", keeping bases open in Germany, for example. All of this stuff needs a very hard look, but cutting money to the services should be the last choice. Trust me - the armed forces of the united states are flat wore out. All the major end items of equipment, aircraft, ships, tanks, helicopter, fleets of tactical vehicles - are ALL way past their service life. None of this stuff was built for 10+ years of continous warfare. It all needs maintenance or replaced altogether. I'm all for ending the wars and bringing the troops home - so we can fix everything and get ready for the next war. Fat chance of that happening though. There will be US troops in Iraq and Afghanstan (put another way: on the border of Iran) for the rest of my lifetime.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

So you're both pro-war and anti-war. I guess that covers all the bases on that one.

tbaker 6 years, 8 months ago

Send two sons to Afghanistan Bozo, one on his second tour. Try serving there yourself; better yet do it twice. Bury some friends along the way. Go to some memorial services of the ones you can't be home for. Try some of that, and see how you feel about war(s). You think I'm pro-war? Do you think because I state what will likely be the strategic direction the US choses in this part of the world that I like war? You bore me.

usnsnp 6 years, 8 months ago

watch, the cuts in military spending will come from Pay, Retirement Benifits, Medical Benifits for the men and women and their families.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

Except that it's a lie. "Illegals" are actually very revenue neutral.

Hate the immigrants all you want to, but at least hate them for something they actually do.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 8 months ago

We could raise how we define poverty, to say anyone making less that 100 grand per year. Then the numbers eligible for food stamps would soar. Or we could lower it to anyone making less than 5 thousand and the numbers would plummet. The point is that maybe it's not poverty that's increasing but how we define eligibility.

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

Actually, from what I've read, the poverty level is based on very basic living expenses from the 1950's, and hasn't been significantly updated since then.

That would mean that it's much too low to adequately reflect how many poor people there are now.

There may be other problems with it as well - somebody once posted that it doesn't take assets into account, just income. If true, that's probably a mistake.

Fossick 6 years, 8 months ago

Not only does the federal poverty measurement not take assets into account, it does not take government programs like medicaid, food stamps, or other non-cash assistance into account. So government anti-poverty programs do nothing to alleviate 'poverty,' as dutifully measured by those who are paid to measure it.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 8 months ago

All men may be created equal, but Charles Manson and Dr. Martin Luther King are not equal. Nor should they be treated as equals. A person born into very difficult circumstances yet overcomes those circumstances should not be treated the same as a person born into difficult circumstances yet fails to overcome those circumstances.

usnsnp 6 years, 8 months ago

If you want a cheaper military return to the Draft with no exemptions.

tbaker 6 years, 8 months ago

Do that becuase it will accomplish what, exactly?

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 8 months ago

End the wars, bring our soldiers home, let the Bush tax cuts expire.Economy rebound!

gphawk89 6 years, 8 months ago

So tens of thousands of soldiers come home and are more or less kicked out of the military. At that point they have no job. And when trying to find a job they get to compete for those jobs with tens of thousands of civilians who've been laid off from their work as defense contractors, thousands of others who might otherwise join the military but don't due to lack of recruiting, and the now-jobless recruiters themselves. How do you propose to "take care of them" at the local level?

gphawk89 6 years, 8 months ago

How could I be bluffing? I never said anything about what I'd do. Where did I say anything about supporting our troops? I'm asking what you would do - that was a question. So you'd take them into your home and make them your own family members. OK, I call YOUR bluff.

gphawk89 6 years, 8 months ago

I "support" our soldiers by designing, building, installing, and maintaining some of the most sophisticated, high-fidelity military flight simulators in the world. The soldiers trained on my equipment perform their mission flawlessly and return safely because they know exactly what to expect before they enter the battlespace.

How do YOU support our soldiers?

Chris Golledge 6 years, 8 months ago

I'd be curious to know how our military budget compares with other NATO countries, in percentages of GDP. Maybe NATO isn't the best set of countries, but countries with similar levels of per capita income perhaps. I'm just thinking that Britain, France, Germany, etc. seem capable of defending themselves; so, it would be interesting to see how much they spend compared to us. Actually, I'd think we could spend less per capita because of economies of scale; we have more capita.

Chris Golledge 6 years, 8 months ago

Oh, look, that wasn't hard

Anyone seriously think we have to spend more than twice as much as France and Britain on a per capita basis?

kansanjayhawk 6 years, 8 months ago

Under the constitution the military defense of this nation is a priority of the Federal government. The national defense clearly should be prioritized ahead of endless entitlement programs that have run-away budgets! Every area of gov't must be cut but we must make certain that we are safe from the wolf.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

Nothing wrong with national defense. But 80% of the military budget has absolutely nothing to do with "defense."

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