The defense news services have been full of comments and concerns about sequestration. If sequestration goes into effect the defense budget will be cut $109 billion next year and social spending will be cut over $90 billion. The two political parties have taken very different positions on sequestration/massive defense cuts. This article will try to put the issues into perspective.
Former Defense Secretary Gates recently issued a scathing criticism of lawmakers who he claimed are willing to cripple the US economically and strategically in the world to retain the votes and financial backing of the ideologues they’ve become beholden to. Gates made the following points:
- “Too many are more concerned with winning elections and scoring ideological points than with saving the country,”
- The across-the-board cuts dictated in the sequestration legislation that was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama is cowardly. “Across the board cuts are the worst possible way to exercise budget discipline,”
- Sequestration was likened to a scene in the Mel Brooks Western spoof, “Blazing Saddles.” “The sheriff holds a gun to his own head and warns the crowd not to make him shoot,”
- If the politicians are serious about getting the country’s spending under control, they have to look at Social Security and Medicare. “The United Sates must get its government finances in order…. “Doing so requires our country’s political class to show leadership and make decisions that may be unpopular in the short run but which will strengthen the country for the long haul…“So far there appears to be little evidence this is taking place.”
- Following the November elections, “whatever adults remain in the two political parties must make the compromises necessary to put this country back in order.”
In the same conference former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen made the following points:
- The cuts would result in a “hollow force” of decreased training, cutbacks in maintenance and reined in operations,
- “I’m not as hopeful as others we won’t drive off this cliff. I’m worried sick about it, frankly already, the comptrollers in our government are pulling back. Already there are plans that wherever this budget axe may fall [next year], not to spend money this year.”
The Democratic Party’s 2012 platform signals it would welcome additional Pentagon spending reductions, and targets for cuts “outdated Cold War-era systems” such as nuclear weapons. The set of policies endorsed at the party’s national convention calls for “tough budgetary decisions,” but it does not call for voiding $500 billion in national defense spending cuts that would kick in Jan. 2 if lawmakers fail to enact a broader $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package.
Most Republicans want to prevent more defense cuts; their Democratic counterparts believe the Pentagon budget is inflated, and favor eliminating some weapon systems. The GOP platform adopted at that party’s convention makes a full-throated call to avoid the cuts to planned defense spending.
The platform calls the pending cuts “severe,” and warns they would be “a disaster for national security, imperiling the safety of our servicemen and women, accelerating the decline of our nation’s defense industrial base, and resulting in the layoff of more than 1 million skilled workers.”
Democrats and Republicans appear unlikely to find much common ground. Republicans favor keeping the existing nuclear fleet in place, while Democrats believe the arsenal — which is expensive to operate and maintain — is ripe for cuts.
Reportedly while posturing for the election President Obama unveiled a budget plan seeking to trim the federal deficit by cutting or eliminating some 200 federal programs, many dedicated to social services and education, while increasing military spending and funding for the construction of nuclear power plants. Announcing his $3.7 trillion proposal, Obama touted his previously stated pledge to freeze funding for domestic programs outside of the military for five years. Obama’s plan includes two modest tax hikes for banks and oil companies. It also calls for ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in 2013 and returning the estate tax to its higher 2009 levels.
Governor Romney has a different view of the role of government and has called the Obama plan more empty rhetoric to justify more tax increases. He also believes that by increasing employment tax revenues can go up and that by eliminating wasteful and redundant social programs that spending can be reduced.
The political line is thus drawn on sequestration and defense cuts.