|Photo courtesy of the CIA|
The current SecDef., Leon Panetta, recently had a few things to say about the defense budget and the looming "automatic" budget cuts. In fact, his overall assessment is that they would be "devastating".
On some points, a reasonable conservative would have to agree with him.
Defense budget cuts threaten national defense and the security of our nation. Having served during some hefty post-Cold War defense cuts, the consequences to readiness and capability are obvious and dangerous. For examples of how large cuts and draw-downs harmed our nation in the past, consider the following.
At the beginning of the Korean War, we sent "Task Force Smith". In July of 1950, our nation sent a unit to Korea. The unit was poorly equipped. The budget cuts and post-WWII draw down had greatly affected maintenance funds, training funds, and the availability of weapons and ammunition. Due to the draw down, there were insufficient forces prepared to deploy. There were insufficient force projection platforms available to deploy the necessary forces even if they had been available. TF Smith was selected to enter Korea and begin delaying actions to slow North Korea's advance until a reasonable force could be assembled and deployed. TF Smith hit the ground with 10% of the weapons, equipment, and ammunition necessary to conduct the mission it was mandated to perform. The idiots in DC believed that the enemy would see the US Flag and the "US Army" tags on the uniform and be demotivated. They thought wrong and TF Smith was slaughtered. John Garrett wrote a great study of this failure and the history that keeps repeating because so-called leaders keep failing to learn the harsh lessons of history.
Desert One was another failure due to draw downs and defense budget cuts. For those too young to recall the late 1970s, we faced terrorism then, too. State-sponsored Islamic terrorists backed by the then new theocracy in Iran, took 66 Americans hostage. In an attempt to rescue the hostages through a military option, Jimmy Carter sent an elite US Army counter-terror unit into Iran. Due to drastically cut maintenance budgets and a cut fuel budget, the mission failed. They could not even get the unit to the target. This was a direct result of defense budget cuts mandated by Carter and his socialist cronies in Congress at the time.
After The Gulf War, the US Military braved more defense cuts and force reductions. Then Clinton started sending forces to Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, and Somalia. We faced terrorists who had allied themselves with war lords in Somalia. The reduction in the defense budget in conjunction with over-extending military operations were contributing factors to the "Blackhawk Down" incident in Operation Gothic Serpent. Other factors greatly contributed as well. Those were probably more to blame. However, they were not in a vacuum devoid of effects caused by reduced defense spending and force reductions.
Meanwhile, Usama bin Laden was unifying Islamic terrorist groups to the Al Q'aeda banner. They attacked our embassies. They attacked the USS Cole. They blew up the Khobar Towers. They were involved in training and equipping the war lords in Africa. Then, with a decreased budget and forces available to pre-empt, including reduced and limited military intelligence budgets, Al Q'aeda attacked the World Trade Center and the US Pentagon. They had other targets that brave citizens managed to stop, such as the events on Flight 93.
Cuts to the defense budget are risky business. That doesn't mean some of them are reasonable. Some cuts need to be looked at and addressed.
Panetta warns of furloughs to US civilian DoD workers. In reality, there are too many civilians in the defense department. Many of those jobs could be done better, cheaper, and more efficiently by Soldiers. The reason for the increase in DoD civilian employees was to free up Soldiers to train and fight the War on Terror until force increases could take effect and new Soldiers trained. They were always meant to be temporary.
Some functions were outsourced to private defense contractors. Many of them are not needed any more. Soldiers are more than capable of doing those jobs. Given their experience on the battle field, they can probably perform those duties even more effectively. Civilian defense contractors are dedicated and hard working people. However, their pay (and cost to the government) is a lot higher than a Soldier's pay and benefits.
Conversely, Panetta calls for decreased pay and benefits for Soldiers. This is in an effort to "save" those temporary civilian jobs. The fact is that those civilians, especially contractors, cost more and perform fewer man-hours than a Soldier. When citing pay raises to Soldiers which started under President Clinton (and Speaker Gingrich) as part of the "waste in the defense budget", people need to be reminded that those raises were designed to close part of the gap between military pay and benefits and their civilian DoD and defense contractor counterparts. Instead of cutting the pay of military members, cut the number of defense contractor and DoD civilian jobs.
Yes, things can be cut in the defense budget. At a minimum, they can be budgeted more efficiently. However, this must be done while increasing training budgets, maintenance budgets, readiness budgets, equipment budgets, and the R & D of more efficient and effective equipment (from small arms to tanks to aircraft to ships).
Now on the subject of the sequestration, it includes some actual budget cuts, including about $42 billion in the defense budget. That isn't very much. There is some politicizing of the approximate $487 billion number being kicked around. That is not cuts. It is a planned reduction of planned increases in spending. It's also over 10 years. Congress is mandated by the US Constitution to pass a defense budget every 2 years at a minimum. Currently, they pass a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) annually. So, the defense budget comes under review every year. Planning to reduce increases over 10 years means very little when each year they can vote to kick that can down the road another 12 months.
Where budget cuts need to be made are in non-essential spending. Non-essential spending is spending on things not mandated by the US Constitution. It is in things that are not defense, paying federal debts, providing postal services, and maintaining postal routes (roads, railroads, or aircraft take-off and landing platforms). Cuts need to be made in the very things that socialists claim to be necessary government spending such as food stamps, housing subsidies, and federal education spending. These are not items mandated by the US Constitution. In fact, the 10th Amendment mandates that these things are the responsibility and authority of the States, local governments, and individual citizens.
The socialists are proclaiming that taxes need to be raised (again) to continue these programs. The problem is that most citizens are too ignorant to realize that they are not essential federal programs. In fact, many of them are questionable if not unconstitutional. The only reasons that the socialists want them off the chopping block is that they use them to buy the votes of the lazy and the ignorant. They want to take liberty and prosperity away from all but their chosen few. The whole purpose is to slowly build the power of their oligarchy while diminishing the rights and opportunities for individual citizens to be self-sufficient. They are designed to enslave the masses.