Defense Secretary warns against defense cuts to come

posted at 4:45 pm on August 3, 2011 by Tina Korbe

The Defense Department looks to be the odd man out in the post-debt-ceiling-deal celebrations (if this quiet, gray day in DC can be characterized as, in any way, “celebratory”). Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly at The Weekly Standard explain:

The so-called “second tranche” of deficit reduction, in the hands of a soon-to-be-named “supercommittee” of lawmakers backed by the threat of an automatic sequestration “trigger” should it fail to agree on sufficient further cuts, would almost certainly push the military past what incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey described as a “very high risk” threshold of cuts. The deficit reduction law seeks another $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in cuts and, if the supercommittee fails to meet the target, mandates additional reductions (split between domestic and security accounts).

The composition of the supercommittee matters a lot. It’s likely that there will be great solidarity among the Democratic members; they will be looking to defend social entitlements (and also looking to frame the 2012 election as a Republicans-throw-granny-under-the-bus contest). If they can’t raise taxes, they’ll look for bigger defense cuts. Conversely, the prime directive for Republicans will be no new taxes. They’d love to run on that issue in 2012. Unless they’re also hawkish on defense, the military will be the odd man out on the conservative side, too. And the sequestration, while allowing both sides to point fingers at one another, would also rip another $500-billion-plus out of defense spending.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appears to be all too well aware of this reality. Just one day after the deal, he immediately sent a message to Pentagon rank-and-file and to Congress to warn about the coming cuts — and to promise that he will do everything in his power “to ensure that further reductions in defense spending are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military’s ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe.”

The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire reports:

In particular, Mr. Panetta expressed worry about the automatic cuts that would result from a failure of the special congressional panel. “If that happens, it could trigger a round of dangerous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation,” he said.

That scenario, Mr. Panetta added, “would be completely unacceptable.”

As Panetta points out in his message, that ”potential deep cut in defense spending is not meant as policy. Rather, it is designed to be unpalatable to spur responsible, balanced deficit reduction and avoid misguided cuts to our security.”

But is it unpalatable enough? When I first heard about the trigger mechanism, it sounded OK (never stellar, but maybe suitable) — cuts to domestic spending to galvanize Medicare-minded liberals, cuts to defense spending to galvanize security-minded conservatives. But I’m increasingly worried, especially in light of the facts. Consider: In 2010, the defense budget was just $712 billion. Compare that to the unfunded liability of Medicare: $30.8 trillion. Because domestic spending is proportionally larger than defense spending, equivalent cuts will disproportionately hurt defense (and don’t buy the business about cuts to “security” rather than “defense” — the Defense Department will bear the brunt).

That means, however much Democrats on the Super Committee might rail against the automatic cuts to domestic spending that would result from the committee’s failure, they would probably stomach those cuts rather than agree to another deal without tax hikes. Schmitt and Donnelly sound optimistic that Republicans will stand firm on taxes — but to stand firm on taxes, they’ll have to be willing to sacrifice defense. I’m optimistic Republicans will defend defense funding — but that means they’ll have to sacrifice taxes. (Of course, debate still exists as to whether the Super Committee can even raise taxes in the first place, but it seems pretty safe to say Obama, at least, thinks the Committee can take a “balanced approach.”) In other words, Republicans will have to cave on tax hikes or the Committee will result in deadlock (and consequent cuts).

But here’s why Republicans should remain steadfast and why the Committee shouldn’t deadlock: The facts clearly demonstrate that entitlement spending is the problem. Just as all the talk of “revenues” distracts from the basic truth that we have a spending problem, so all the talk about “defense spending” distracts from the basic truth that we have an entitlement problem. As this chart from The Heritage Foundation shows, completely eliminating defense spending still wouldn’t solve the country’s fiscal issues:

Republicans on the Super Committee better remember that. As everybody keeps saying, the Committee composition will be crucial: We’ll need deficit and defense hawks.


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I’m just waiting for Thomas Sowell to opine on this subject before I decide what to think about it.

/KingGold
/right2bright

fossten on August 3, 2011 at 4:49 PM

and to promise that he will do everything in his power “to ensure that further reductions in defense spending are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military’s ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe.”

IOW, bend over fellas….Here it comes!

ted c on August 3, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Why is it that the only thing ever up for cuts is the ONE damn thing that the government is Constitutionally mandated to provide?

search4truth on August 3, 2011 at 4:51 PM

They’ll cut the hell out of the DoD.

You can bet on it.

catmman on August 3, 2011 at 4:51 PM

I love ya, Leon…but “[cuts] are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way” is all well and good in theory, but you’ve been around the Obama White House long enough to fully understand that hasty and ill-conceived are the hallmarks of any Obama decision.

coldwarrior on August 3, 2011 at 4:52 PM

fine cut defense spending, who cares. Let’s also cut spending for Dept. Ed SWAT teams, eh? Or the USDA a******s who fined that guy $92K for selling bunnies.

joeindc44 on August 3, 2011 at 4:54 PM

coldwarrior on August 3, 2011 at 4:52 PM

No, I suspect they’ll rather well thought out…

To inflict maximum harm.

CPT. Charles on August 3, 2011 at 4:57 PM

As long as there is money for the study of homosexual genitalia…

… who cares?

/

Seven Percent Solution on August 3, 2011 at 5:02 PM

BOHICA, Part Deux for all my military brethren.

catmman on August 3, 2011 at 5:03 PM

“Republicans on the Super Committee better remember that.”

Bwaaaaahaaaaahaaaaa!

Are you starting to get it now?

Winning.

j_galt on August 3, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Finally. Defense does need cutting – as long as its sensible, and gets rid of most of the fluff & overspent projects rather than needed resources.

mythicknight on August 3, 2011 at 5:04 PM

fine cut defense spending, who cares. Let’s also cut spending for Dept. Ed SWAT teams, eh? Or the USDA a******s who fined that guy $92K for selling bunnies.

joeindc44 on August 3, 2011 at 4:54 PM

Yup.
And I’m not averse to DoD spending cuts. Get rid of the $300 toilet seats.

Badger40 on August 3, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Easy prediction Harry Reid appoints three staunch uncompromising Democrats. Mitch McConnell appoints three squishy compromisers. Taxpayers and the Military lose. The debt clock keeps on ticking

ldbgcoleman on August 3, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appears to be all too well aware of this reality. Just one day after the deal, he immediately sent a message to Pentagon rank-and-file and to Congress to warn about the coming cuts — and to promise that he will do everything in his power “to ensure that further reductions in defense spending are not pursued in a hasty, ill-conceived way that would undermine the military’s ability to protect America and its vital interests around the globe.”

Let’s get this straight. Democrat candidate Obama campaigned on “Judgment to Lead” by wanting to cut-and-run from Iraq, then sent a Bush-McCain-style troop surge to Afghanistan and started a third war in Libya, then Democrat Leon Panetta is lecturing Republicans about not cutting defense spending too much!

Then the Democrats want to paint Republicans as “throw-granny-over-the-cliff”, when Medicare spending needs to be cut $500 billion over 10 years to “pay for” ObamaCare, which Granny and Grandpa don’t need???

When will some Republicans stand up and tell the TRUTH about Obama, loud and clear?

Obama = Guns and Butter–Lyndon Johnson on steroids…

Steve Z on August 3, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Why aren’t we hearing the Sec. of Ag or Interior warn about cuts, huh?

Yup.
And I’m not averse to DoD spending cuts. Get rid of the $300 toilet seats.

Badger40 on August 3, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Sometimes, the toilet really does cost $300. But it ain’t your average toilet, either.

$600 hammers? Outrageous you say. Until you discover that its a special, non-sparking “hammer” used around ordnance, and the DoD is only purchasing 12 of them. To tell the truth, some of these “outrageous” items were probably acquired at cost, meaning little to no profit for the manufacturer.

BobMbx on August 3, 2011 at 5:12 PM

The setup is in the making – and started the day the Bill was signed…

When those “so-called triggers” kick in – Dems will use it to thrust the nation back into “we need to get out of war” – while bringing Obama’s faux “cred” in foreign affairs back to the table. Thats right “I ordered the kill on OBL, we dont need resources in ________________ ” fill in the blank.

Now I dont agree with these scumbags – but the die has been cast. They want to cut DoD funding – and will do it in the most enviro-rich timeframe; which includes spending, budgets, deficit, Part 35, while the country reels from unemployment and economic failure of this admin.

Odie1941 on August 3, 2011 at 5:15 PM

2. Having Panetta as an advocate for reasonable defense cuts will certainly make it more difficult for Democrats to force.

blink on August 3, 2011 at 4:57 PM

Jarret: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.
Obama: [intrigued] Yes… He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
Jarret: He will join us or die, master.

BobMbx on August 3, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Finally. Defense does need cutting – as long as its sensible, and gets rid of most of the fluff & overspent projects rather than needed resources.

mythicknight on August 3, 2011 at 5:04 PM

But it won’t. It’ll reduce ships, fleets will have to be re-apportioned, Army and Marine divisions will be slashed, er, ‘re-constituted’, personnel and warfighting capability will be cut, training dollars will be slashed, vehicle fleets at all levels will grow older, replacement parts inventories won’t be maintained or updated, training with live ammunition will be curtailed, deployment times will be extended – again and again – fewer people for the same mission after all…

They did all of this in the 90′s and they tore the hell out of the service.

No one cared until around 2005 when things in Iraq got bad.

I agree that defence can and should sustain cuts along with EVERY OTHER FEDERAL AGENCY. But defence cuts are the big boon many think it is.

catmman on August 3, 2011 at 5:16 PM

fine cut defense spending, who cares. Let’s also cut spending for Dept. Ed SWAT teams, eh? Or the USDA a******s who fined that guy $92K for selling bunnies.

joeindc44 on August 3, 2011 at 4:54 PM

Whoa…that fine paid for 0.5 federal legislators. 199 more, and we got the Senate salaries paid!

BobMbx on August 3, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Solution? Take the Senate by a filibuster proof margin, keep the House and win the Presidency. Simple!

Vince on August 3, 2011 at 5:18 PM

No one cared until around 2005 when things in Iraq got bad.

catmman on August 3, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Rumsfeld: “You fight the war with what you have”

And he was nearly right. The statement should have been:

You fight the war with what the previous administration paid for.

BobMbx on August 3, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Vince on August 3, 2011 at 5:18 PM

Aw, c’mon, that sooo obvious…perfect solution, too…but after all the folks on the Right who call themselves Conservatives get done eating their own, who will be left to vote for any of them?

Got to be a more nuanced way, right? //

coldwarrior on August 3, 2011 at 5:22 PM

coldwarrior on August 3, 2011 at 5:22 PM

The voters on the right will do the same thing the voters on the left will do and that’s vote for the party.

The ones who stay home or throw a fit and vote third party aren’t worth wasting your time with because they lack common sense anyway.

There’s a time to try and get your ideas through and a time to back off and try later. Learn from the past but don’t whine about it.

Vince on August 3, 2011 at 5:32 PM

As long as they don’t cut diversity training for soldiers and muslim imams and mosques at every base…

slickwillie2001 on August 3, 2011 at 5:42 PM

This is BS. The sole purpose the fool was put there is to slash the defense budget.

Schadenfreude on August 3, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Question

If this “super committee” can’t come to an agreement by the time the “triggers” need to be met, who breaks the tie? Who makes the decision that the committee can’t?

milwife88 on August 3, 2011 at 6:09 PM

As soon as all of the gays and transsexuals now allowed to serve openly start crying there isn’t enough funding for their care, Democrats will boost defense spending.

Much better to pay for sex change operations, AID’s drugs, pink frilly wool Army blankets and such than supply Troops weapons to defend the country.

And yes, I’m being sarcastic.

LewWaters on August 3, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Defense cuts with a “Obama, get out of trouble, free” card courtesy of Boehner and GOP friends.

Don L on August 3, 2011 at 6:38 PM

Look really, I hope this is a no brainer, which doesn’t necessarily mean the R’s had the brains, but… I keep seing the phrase “security accounts” which everyone seems to automatically take as from DoD. Maybe not so much, wouldn’t it be nice if someone had the foresight in the usage of precise verbage to open the way to chip away at, if not outright dismantle, Homeland Security?

G*d I hope so!

I have despised this this beast from its inception. To start with the name itself is as if it came out of a jr Orwellian how-to book on autocracy, it doesn’t help that TSA training manual appears to have come outta a Crackerjack box.

I remember being at a neighborhood watering hole and reading the CC of Rummy saying at a presser…”Look, we can either change the way live, or, change the the terrorists live…”, I stood and said Hell Yeah! It was the last positive thought I had about Runsfeld since. As we then went apace to do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE!

We have the childishly named “Homeland Security” and its appendages like the TSA to thank for this.

I seriously hope that there is someone fiendishly Machiavellian enough within the Replubican caucus to open the backdoor to be rid of people, because to retard our martial capabilities in an enviroment of great geo-political uncertainty as we have now, is utter madness. Or EXACTLY what I’d expect from Dhimmicrats.

Archimedes on August 3, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Damn Typos!

Archimedes on August 3, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Arch,

They’ll take some from HS, probably a bit from other agencies like CIA, FBI, ATF, etc.

But the brunt of the money will come from the DoD because its easier to cut and harder to demagogue.

catmman on August 3, 2011 at 7:07 PM

So how many of you jumping on the cut defense spending bandwagon realize that defense has already cut $400 billion this year alone? There was $450 million cut for the extra engine for the F-35, $10 million cut from administrative funding and $350 billion in the debt ceiling legislation. There were further cuts in GI Bill program and Tricare funding.

Like I said when I found out about triggers in the bill the only winner in this was Dennis Kuchinich and his Department of Peace.

Just A Grunt on August 3, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Cuts always happen to the military members and their families first.

Brat4life on August 3, 2011 at 8:05 PM

Nice sub-headline Tina. This seems AP’s influence. Be careful. He’s a little twisted. (‘Takes one to know one.)

exdeadhead on August 3, 2011 at 8:56 PM

The committee needs people with principles who will seek longevity for the USA, not party hacks seeking short term political benefit.

The character of our two parties will be revealed by the moral strength and character of their appointees, or lack thereof. Frankly, these people need to have Presidential character (which used to mean something before Nixon, then the office was pretty much restored by Reagan, then Clinton stained it).

exdeadhead on August 3, 2011 at 9:17 PM

Easy solution – raise the DOD budget by 500 billion for 2012 budget and then cut it back out – that seems to be what all the rest of these so called cuts do.

Corsair on August 3, 2011 at 10:41 PM

The military is like the second amendment, without it, all other liberties are lost.

scotash on August 4, 2011 at 1:13 AM

A major part of any sensible defense retrenchment would be to require the many nations who rely upon our blood and treasure for their defenses to pony up. We spend many billions maintaining half a million troops in Europe to defend them from . . . the Soviet threat. No problem leaving the troops there, it’s not bad duty – but we can’t afford to pay for it any longer. Germany and the EU need to pay for that security.

But Congress can intervene at any point, and this commission is a mere stop-gap measure to avoid a credit rating downgrade. What will happen after the next election depends on who wins.

Adjoran on August 4, 2011 at 4:03 AM

I knew DoD was screwed as soon as PBHO cut the F-22, which was the finest fighter/intercepter in design today! It flew rings around the F-35 which is nothing more then a light attack (light bomber) craft!!! The thrust vectoring capability alone made the F-22 turn inside anything else in design! Now China has begun production on their own thrust vectoring aircraft and we won’t be able to fight it!!! I knew right then that our military was screwed, blued & tattooed! Thanx Obama!!!

Vntnrse on August 4, 2011 at 5:55 AM