If we’re going to hit the mark set in last year’s budget agreement for $1.3T in cuts over the next decade, a lot of snipping will be going on. The president is already drawing fire for the major cuts he has proposed to the military, including a large shift to the Pacific region and a major reduction in forces. (These cuts could include as many as 500,000 jobs lost in the military and associated civilian support roles.) But at least it’s getting the job done, right? As the Fiscal Times’ Merrill Goozner reports… not so fast there, skippy.
The broad shift in U.S. strategic thinking unveiled Thursday by President Obama and his top military advisers will be accompanied by $489 billion of spending reductions over the coming decade. Under the plan, the military will abandon maintaining sufficient forces to fight two wars simultaneously, while placing greater emphasis on mounting a forward presence in the Asia-Pacific region. China, according to military planners, is emerging as not just a global economic power, but a potential rival for U.S. hegemony in the region.
But the plan doesn’t meet the $650 billion in defense savings that will be part of the $1.3 trillion of federal spending cuts scheduled to start in 2013, under last year’s Budget Control Act.
If defense cuts are limited to $489 billion, the next administration will have to impose major new cuts in domestic programs, to avert the much larger cuts in the Pentagon budget that Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and top military brass say are unacceptable and would jeopardize national security.
That leaves another $160B to come up with, and the White House has already admitted it can’t come out of the military. Obama may be convinced that we’re “turning the page on a decade of war,” but the need for a superpower level military has not been obviated in any way. (Also, the report indicates that these numbers include a baked in assumption that we’ll be out of Afghanistan on the current schedule. Care to place a small wager on that one?)
So where does the rest of the money come from? Entitlement programs? Coming from a Democrat in an election year? Please. Aside from squeezing a few more dollars out of foreign aid, how do they bridge the gap? Say… some of those tax cuts are coming up on their expiration date, aren’t they?
Of course, the most likely scenario is that both Obama and Congress will do what they always do when the going gets tough. They’ll figure out a way to make the mandatory cuts somewhat “less mandatory” and punt.