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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Debt limit stalemate threatens defense spending

The war in Iraq

Once unthinkable in a time of two wars, Democrats and Republicans alike are insisting that the billions spent on the military can be significantly cut back over the next decade as the nation struggles to reduce its spiraling debt.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s plan to slash spending and increase the government’s borrowing authority would cap spending by the Pentagon and other government agencies at $1.2 trillion. Conservative Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has called for just over $1 trillion in defense cuts in his “Back in Black” plan, including fewer weapons, fighter jets and personnel. A bipartisan group of six senators envisions reductions of more than $800 billion in 10 years.

The proposals reflect a rare bipartisan consensus driven by a dire economic outlook. The numbers even outpace what a Democratic commander in chief called for earlier this year. In April, President Barack Obama instructed the Pentagon to find $400 billion in defense savings over 12 years and said no decisions on specifics would be made until the Pentagon had completed a review of options for achieving such reductions.

No matter which plan emerges in the latest debt showdown — Reid’s or the House GOP plan by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio — both call for creation of a 12-person, House-Senate bipartisan committee to find trillions in deficit cuts. Defense spending will be a ripe target, especially since the money would come from cuts in projected increases. Defense budgets, not including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, consistently have gone up in recent years, from just over $370 billion in the late 1990s to around $550 billion today.

Military leaders and lawmakers on the congressional committees overseeing the Pentagon warn of creating a “hollow” fighting force.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Obama’s choice for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel this week that cuts of $800 billion or more “would be extraordinarily difficult and very high risk.” Leaders in the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and Navy told a House panel that cuts of that magnitude would force them to restructure their respective services and cause problems meeting the demands of commanders in the field.

“I’m deeply concerned that hasty across-the-board cuts will dramatically affect our safety and security of the men and women serving,” said Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.

Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said he worries “about our state of readiness, not for mastheads on the horizon or columns of tanks rolling toward us, but for the looming defense budget cuts many in this Congress seem willing to inflict on our military.”

Facing critical votes on debt-limit bills, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in an interview that he backed Reid’s legislation “even though I think it is an aggressive number for defense.”

Reid’s bill would start with caps on spending on defense, intelligence and veterans at $606 billion in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and $607 billion the following year. The caps would essentially pare back the increases in military spending, standard for an agency that deals with long-term contracts for multimillion-dollar weapons and programs. Separately, he counted some $1 trillion in savings from eventually winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The demands for defense cuts come as Republicans fiercely oppose increases in taxes and Democrats say hands-off on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. That leaves the billions for defense and the scores of other government programs, from education to transportation to agriculture, for reductions as the nation grapples with a $1.5 trillion deficit.

“If Republicans are taking revenue completely off the table, it’s unavoidable that defense, which is 20 percent of the budget, is going to face some significant reductions to get our deficit under control,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on House Armed Services, said in an interview. “It has to be on the table in any event, but once you take revenue off the table, defense is in serious trouble. That concerns me, but our deficit concerns me as well.”

Smith said many in Congress were “brutally in denial” about how to solve the fiscal problem.

Although the long-range proposals favor significant defense cuts, many Republicans and Democrats have been reluctant this year to vote for reductions. Earlier this month, the House overwhelmingly backed a $649 billion defense spending bill that boosted the Pentagon budget by $17 billion. The legislation included $119 billion for the two wars. During debate, the House easily turned back efforts by liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans to slash billions.

Still, tea party-backed Republicans have prevailed on occasion, most notably in February when they led the effort to eliminate funds for a second engine for the next-generation F-35 fighter plane.

John Isaacs, executive director of Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said if “tea party Republicans were willing to cut defense spending, it would give more courage to Democrats” worried about the weak-on-national security label they’ve often faced since the Vietnam War.”

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who served as director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, is overseeing a review of the consequences of budget reductions of $400 billion and above. Panetta’s predecessor, Robert Gates, initiated the review and it would include an assessment of what changes in defense strategy would be required as a result of such cuts and how they would affect military capabilities.

The review could be completed by the end of the summer.

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10 thoughts on “Debt limit stalemate threatens defense spending”

  1. Boy we really need to have another super carrier. Oh and how about a gross of F-22’s? Is there any place in Africa we can start a brush fire war? Let me get back to all those congressional districts that have defense spending as the basis of their economy.

    How about making this a for profit military? I’m a AC/DC fan and just think “Dirty Deeds.” Want to rent us to kick some serious azz? Banana Republic one has a hussy fit with Banana Republic two so just ring us up. When the check cashes we close them out.

  2. If you talk to practically anyone in the military who isn’t in the Top Brass, they can share with you a story or three about wasteful spending, be it paying too much for an item or buying things that the military did not need or want.

    I’ve never understood why so many legislators see military spending as sacrosanct–it seems to me that wasting money on defense pork is tantamount to endangering soldiers’ lives, because it’s money that could be spent on things that benefit them more directly. I can only imagine that politicians who refuse to cut defense spending at all for any reason either are ignorant, or have some ties to the defense industry (or at best, have a lot of defense industries employing their constituents).

    • Danny, the reason the General staff including high level field grade officers are enamoured with our continued military actions worldwide is the fact that it was their chosen career. Post retirement, many if not most find cush jobs in the defense sector. Myself, along with three of my brothers are all retired military officers representing the USN, USAF and the USMC. Except for myself all are successful post retirement primary defense contractors or employed as high level managers to such. I chose not to involve myself with such stress post retirement mainly because I’m not “money hungry” enough to do so. Some folks who’ve done quite well for themselves, never have enough money or ‘action’. My wife and I are quite conservative in our lifestyle, believing less is more. We live comfortably, but aren’t interested in conspicuous consumption and the noisome lifestyle that goes with it.

      Politicians who sit on defense related committees couldn’t find better deep pocket patrons to plump their campaign coffers than the MIC. Also there’s no doubt kickbacks from foreign governments who enjoy the benefit of our continued presence in their lands. This would also include kickbacks related to providing ‘foreign aid’, military or otherwise to nations that deserve none. I’m sure many of our Congresscritters have secret offshore accounts that are plush with cash as a function of such unholy liasons.

      It’s all linked to money, power and the ‘rush’ of endless networking and schmoozing. Many if not most of these high level players can never get enough until it’s lights out for them. Meanwhile they’ve wrought incredible financial damage directly or indirectly to this nation with little thought of the consequences of their love affair with the “dogs of war” and the elusive creation of Empire Americanus, now gone bust.

      Carl Nemo **==

      • I have it on good authority the food in the Green zone sucks,
        and I can safely say every man woman and child eating it,
        with sand up their butt crack for the first time have a firm grip on survival and Americas somewhat dubious position.
        After-all it is our position they serve ?

        Where are those confounded Statesmen ?

        Dooms Day, stay away.

  3. Offering Guatemalans, Colombians, and other nationalities US Citizenship in return for serving in the US Armed Forces didn’t create a “hollow” fighting force?

    • Woody, this is what Rome did in in its final throes as an Empire. They began to enlist ‘barbarians’ into their armies which eventually led to mutinies and compromised allegiance to the Empire along with many serial failures on the field of battle.

      Between tribute to the barbarians at the gate and their failing military paradigm, it meant curtains for an empire that lasted a thousand years until the last Emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus who’s reign lated about one year from 475 to 476 A.D fell.

      Seemingly our flash in the pan attempt at empire is has lasted about 235 years since our nations founding with an acceleration to our ultimate demise post WWII. Within 65 years, we’ve squandered the wealth of our nation on the altar of globalism, now seemingly run amok and so too due to fail too as all crackpot schemes of hegemony over the unwashed masses throughout history. People for all time and places will take only so much crap from their leaders…then comes revolution and rebirth for better or worse.

      Will mankind ever learn, seemingly not…! / : |

      Carl Nemo **==

  4. Strother Martin. Roughly.
    Our communicate is failure and we will out wait you.
    This is about the time Pop said ,try a lower gear, on the hill.
    Zero respect in the dictionary is rapidly resembling US.

    Strother saw an animal.

    Where are those confounded foreign policy experts ?
    Playing bridge you say ?
    Sombatch, Aah thunk deys was to be spose builtnin em. Huh !

  5. Before we allow a single American to be dropped from Medicare, we should bring every single soldier home and out of the areas outside of the USA. Foreigh Aid to be removed 100%. Cut retirement payments in half to every member of the House and Senate and cut payments to ex Presidents. My hope is that Bush will realize what he did to the budget with his removing taxes from the rich, his sending billions to our enemies and some friends who have been disloyal. The Republicasns have been throwing money around like drunk sailors and now they look into the sky and pray for the rest of us.

    I’m not certain we have time to list those tea party members and point out to them and their voter base how we need to replace them with honest and intelligent representitives. The religious right dug those fools up knowing they have no thinking ability simply to destroy our government to put Obama under the bus. They all signed a pledge to stop all abortions and gay marriages.

    America has no democracy because we have no voter base to work within the system. I’m not certain what we can do. I made a pledge to my family last week that I would never again vote for another Republican.

  6. “Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Obama’s choice for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel this week that cuts of $800 billion or more “would be extraordinarily difficult and very high risk.” …extract from article

    I say bullsh*t…! General grade officers are in the ‘business of war’ and unequivocally in modern times, war has become a racket to paraphrase General Smedley Butler, Major General, USMC (deceased) author of “War is a Racket”

    We spend more than 15 other nations combined including the major players, China and Russia. We’ve met the enemy folks in these seeming end times for the Republic and seemingly “he is us”…!

    I’ll supply a link from the “War Resisters League” corroborating this massive waste, not including fraud within this MIC sponsored, now rogue behemoth. How much money does a nation need to spend to be ‘safe’…? Seemingly the clowns running this nation see the amount as enough to destroy the very nation they claim to ‘protect’ in a financial sense. We surely don’t have to meet enemies on the field of battle in these times to become a footnote in history.

    The result has been fear run amok, courtesy of this failed leadership for whom we should be afraid, very afraid indeed.


    “We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer.” … Hunter S. Thompson


    Carl Nemo **==

    • Smedley in his last words effectually proclaimed; roughly..

      A look at home remains elusive for those who bear the real cost of religious payback adventurism, never to see home again without a real peace amendment.
      Oh we in our futile omniscience.
      Ain’t it a bitch we’ve the beast, only to never let it eat ?

      And the mother, the wives ,and the sisters of future cannon fodder must lead the way.

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