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  • Defending Paul Ryan on Defense

    Representative Paul Ryan (R–WI) generated a few headlines defending his defense budget.

    When pressed about why he wanted to invest more in the military than the Pentagon brass asked for, Ryan had an answer that raised eyebrows: “We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice,” Ryan said at the National Journal Live Budget Policy summit, adding, “I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget.”

    Ryan has good reason to be skeptical—not of the integrity of senior military leaders but of the budget that they are duty-bound to defend.

    Just two years ago, the Obama Administration signed off on a Quadrennial Defense Review that required a substantially larger and more capable military. Now they are producing anemic budgets where 75 percent of the cuts, by the Secretary of Defense’s own admission, are reductions in military capability.

    Has the world become dramatically safer in two years? Of course not. Obama’s defense cuts are driven by his strategy of slashing support for the military to pretend he is being fiscally responsible. The reality is that defense is les than one-fifth the federal budget, but the President slapped it with one-half of his proposed cuts.

    Why is the brass signing off on this? Well, that’s their job. I know well how this works. I saw it first hand serving in the Pentagon. The Constitution establishes civilian supremacy over the military. The President is commander in chief. He defines strategic requirements, so the way he gets the military leaders to agree is simple: He just lowers the bar of expectations. He dumbs down the requirements.

    So when Congress asks the brass, “Do you have enough?” They have no choice but to answer “yes.” It is like telling marathoner who has not had time to train that he only has to run a 5-K race. Sure, he’s ready—unless he actually has to run a marathon.

    So we shouldn’t be surprised when the military rubber-stamps the President’s budget. Nor should we be surprised when Congress questions them. That is the job of the Congress. The Constitution charges Congress with raising and maintaining the Armed Forces.

    Ryan has just called the President’s bluff. The generals and admirals are stuck in the middle.

    If you don’t like what is going on in the Pentagon, blame the commander in chief, not the generals—after all, that is who they work for.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Defending Paul Ryan on Defense

    1. Obama's defense cuts? It appears (of is it true, you tell me?) that actual defense spending has Increased Every Year since 1998. That it was just over $600 bilion in 2006 (actual spending vs. projected), and that that figure has INCREASED each year to $800 billion in 2010. Projected spending see the U.S. spending over $900 billion in 2014. So where's the "cuts" you are talking about? Are you talking about a slower rate of increase? I think so? Also, specifically WHICH generals and admirals is Ryan speaking of when he says they aren't being honest about their needs and requests? http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/defense_chart
      How about some facts here?

    2. West Texan says:

      James said " … blame the commander in chief, not the generals—after all, that is who they work for.". Isn't that the truth. Having gone from the structured world of enlisted to the officer ranks, I quickly learned about the politics of seniority. It's not a matter of being right, but rather playing your best hand. I went inactive years ago.

    3. zbigniewmazurak says:

      "It appears (of is it true, you tell me?) that actual defense spending has Increased Every Year since 1998"

      No, it is not true. From FY1998 to FY2001, it was flat in real terms, and has been shrinking since FY2010.

      "and that that figure has INCREASED each year to $800 billion in 2010."

      Completely false. Not even close to being true. The defense budget for FY2010 was $534 bn. The total military budget for FY2010 was $664 bn. Not even close to $800 bn.

      "Projected spending see the U.S. spending over $900 billion in 2014. So where's the "cuts" you are talking about?"

      Projected only by the ridiculous website that you've cited, which has nothing to do with reality. The truth is that defense spending WILL be cut from this year's level ($531 bn) to $525 bn next year and further next year (and that's assuming that sequestration doesn't occur), and will not return to its FY2011 level ($531 bn) until FY2019 at the earliest. These are real cuts.

      "Also, specifically WHICH generals and admirals is Ryan speaking of when he says they aren't being honest about their needs and requests?"

      The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and especially their Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is a New York liberal.

    4. zbigniewmazurak says:

      Actually, James, I would not be as nice with the JCS.

      They are liars, and I'm appalled by how blatantly they're lying to save Obama's face and defend his deep defense cuts. Indeed, Obama has established a pattern of pressuring 4-star generals to change their testimonies to suit him. Just ask General William Shelton, the commander of the AF Space Command. General Dempsey has recently made a verbal U-turn and contradicted himself. Earlier this year, he said (and rightly so) that sequestration would produce the very definition of a hollow force and that if it happens, the US will "no longer be a global power". Now he's made a U-turn, claims he was misunderstood, claims he needs to "clarify his remarks" and that the US would merely "no longer be the global power we know ourselves to be".

      Besides, generals, like everyone else, are humans. They make mistakes, sometimes even grave ones. They are not infallible. They are as prone to grave error as everyone else. Let's not treat what they say as if it were the Holy Bible – regardless of whether it's favorable to conservatives or liberals. Congress should think for itself instead of relying on generals for their judgment.

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