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  • Slashing Defense Budget Puts Nation at Increased Risk

    Heritage’s James Carafano recently wrote that President Obama’s proposed defense cuts are tantamount to a gift to America’s enemies. These cuts reduce America’s military capabilities in a dangerous world and bring greater risk to the nation.

    The President’s new defense budget raises the risk level for the U.S. and its allies. In his budget preview, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged this reality. Prior to this, military officials had already raised red flags. For example, during General Martin Dempsey’s confirmation hearing to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he characterized impending cuts as “extraordinarily difficult and very high risk.”

    Carafano states that it is important to wring inefficiencies out of Pentagon spending—but not at the expense of national security. Libya is the case in point. The Department of Defense said it spent about half a billion dollars to oust Muammar Qadhafi; however, it requested authority to reprogram only about $80 million in spending. To pay for the Libya war, “[t]he Pentagon robbed training, maintenance and operations accounts and that resulted in shortfalls that directly reduce military readiness. It is like shorting the mortgage payment to pay your credit cards.”

    Contrary to popular belief, there is not a lot of money just sitting around at the Pentagon. While undoubtedly there are areas of waste in the defense program, the President’s defense budget is overwhelmingly about reducing U.S. military capabilities. Of course Congress should strive to make the federal government efficient; however, slashing defense spending should not be confused with wise fiscal policy.

    Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley recently described the “increased risk” under the defense budget as “manageable,” “provided there are no further reductions.” Unfortunately, an additional $500 billion is slated to be slashed from the defense budget over the next 10 years due to the sequestration provision in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011. This is on top of the $487 billion in reduced defense spending over the next 10 years under the BCA. The sequestration provision is now law, and the President has threatened to veto any bills that would mitigate it. Two such bills have been introduced in Congress, one in the House and one in the Senate offering a one-year fix. Both are admirable efforts and seek to stop the bleeding from the BCA.

    The problem with taking on levels of increased risk is that the enemy gets a vote: They can decide how and where they will fight and will almost certainly exploit vulnerabilities. Overall, the defense cuts under Obama are taking the military down a path of reduced readiness and, ultimately, toward a hollow force. It is impossible to balance the federal budget on the backs of the military, because the defense budget already accounts for more than 50 percent of the reductions—despite representing less than 20 percent of the total federal budget. These cuts have taken place at the same time domestic spending has exploded.

    Carafano concludes that “Even the White House acknowledges that the additional cuts imposed under the Budget Control Act will endanger national security. It, however, wants a long-term budget deal that includes big tax increases. Many in Congress won’t go along. Holding national security hostage over tax policy is just unacceptable.”

    Fred Ferreira is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Slashing Defense Budget Puts Nation at Increased Risk

    1. John G says:

      Perhaps the cuts would be more manageable if we actually started following the Constitution and only attacked those who attacked us, or at least presented a real and credible threat to us. That is what "defense" means, right?

    2. Forums4Justice says:

      The U.S. Spends More On Defense than Next Top 14 Countries Combined http://bit.ly/hNKDG6 #teaparty #p2 #ows #dems

    3. Wildcat, D-Town, PA says:

      PART 1 of 3: We have experienced a few dramatic reductions in the past forty years concerning defense strength (in terms of personnel) and in defense spending, and once at least in the past thirty years in which US Forces were dramatically reduced to allegedly save money under the false premise that no significant threats were present or emerging globally. The last aforementioned one was the huge drawdown that began in earnest in September 1992 that ill-informed politicians called "The Peace Dividend". The Army was cut about 49% of its active divisions and about 51% of its reserve component divisions to allegedly save the American taxpayer the cost of retired pay and retired benefits for officers and NCO's who served just under three quarters of their young adult life in the Profession of Arms towards a meager yet important retirement at the twenty year mark.

    4. Wildcat, D-Town, PA says:

      PART 2 of 3: Of course they served during several exciting times from the Iranian Hostage Crises thru Grenada and Desert Shield/Desert Storm when selection to special schools and promotion was absolutely competitive and tough. After the reduction (of all US Forces) President Clinton ended up having to deal with things like Bosnia and ethnic cleansing, warlords in Somalia (Black Hawk Down) and terrorists around the Horn of Africa, Sudan -our embassy there, the NY City bombing by the blind Sheik’s terrorist cell and lobbing missiles into terrorist training camps in the vicinity of Afghanistan/Pakistan. The Army as well as the other services lost a wealth of trained experience and those who were not involved in those specific actions ended up commanding "hollow" units that were unable to even man the tanks for example. Tank gunnery transformed to an event to exercise the tank weapon systems rather than train and evaluate fully manned tank crews. Battalion Commanders were grabbing cooks and mechanics to man the tanks after having existing crews already do all the tank gunnery tables two plus times!

    5. Wildcat, D-Town, PA says:

      PART 3A of 3: Then between 9/11 and today the world changed radically as did US Forces. All of sudden, to the shock of politicians who were probably there during the 1992 reduction (Peace Dividend) found they did not have the forces they needed to respond as they would have liked to which allowed Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to easily escape and evade into neighboring Pakistan. The politicians allowed military branches to change to meet this challenge, as they should, however, that also included a never before heard of thing like "cash bonuses" for commissioned officers in the combat arms branches to incentivize them to stay in the service! And these were not small amounts but lump sums of money that virtually equaled a half a year's pay!

    6. Wildcat, D-Town, PA says:

      PART 3B of 3: They also had all Majors attend CGSC (they call it "ILE" as the "Intermediate Leadership Experience") instead of the highly competitive selection process it once was and the commensurate promotion rates (in the Army) from Captain to Major went from about 42% in the 1980's and early 1990's to an inflated 98% and the promotion rate from Major to Lieutenant Colonel went from approximately 33% to 96% for the two time frames referenced. And now Obama wants to cut the defense budget and overall strength even more? It does not pass the common sense test unless you are serving the enemy and refusing to comply with the oath of office taken in January 2009.

    7. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      We've seen this movie before____we cut the defense budget____then the war budget____after World War I.
      By 1941, the Army was down to 192,000. After Pearl Harbor, it rose to over 1,000,000 men, according to an
      article in the June 1991 issue of Smithsonian magazine. We even cut the defense budget after World War II.
      We also cut it after Korea and Vietnam. By 1979, there were soldiers, sailors, and airmen, on food stamps, and
      pilots were leaving the Navy, Marines, and Air Force, for the airline industry, because it paid better. It took until
      1981 for the military to recover. Reagan raised the military's pay. If sequestration goes through, we'll have the
      smallest army since 1915, the smallest navy since 1940, and the smallest air force in history.

    8. Average Joe says:

      Those risk would be negated if our troops are brought home and were set to protect America

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