Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) repeated his call this morning for significant cuts in the defense budget. The new lawmaker avoided the national news media during his campaign but this morning appeared on the ABC program “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.” Paul is portraying himself as a spokesman for the Tea Party movement and said he wants to establish a caucus on their behalf in the Senate.
He says while the Tea Party believes in a strong national defense, it is more concerned with the debt, which means looking at the military as an outlet ripe for spending cuts. He is advocating this even though the nation is now fighting two wars:
Republicans never say they’ll cut anything out of military. What I say is, national defense is the most important thing we do in Washington, but there’s still waste in the military budget. You have to make it smaller, but you also then need to address, how many wars are we going to be involved in? Are we going to be involved in every war all the time? . . do we need to be in Afghanistan in a large ground war? Or could we be there on a smaller base.
The national debt is fast approaching $14 trillion, and the Republican Party’s top priority is deficit reduction. In their “Pledge to America,” the GOP promised to roll back spending to pre-bailout levels, but they made two major exceptions – the Department of Defense and Homeland Security.
Paul is expected to become the Pentagon’s number one GOP critic, and on foreign policy and national security issues he has already emerged as the most liberal Senate Republican. He says invading Iraq was the wrong thing to do, he opposed the surge in Afghanistan and wants to scale back U.S. commitments.
His father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), has proposed legislation with Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon over the next decade. Rand Paul’s views are not as extreme as they were when he served as a surrogate spokesman for his father’s presidential campaign in 1988 and 2008.
Kentucky has more than 400,000 veterans and 36,000 active-duty military are in the state. The elite 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell has been deployed regularly to Iraq and Afghanistan. The army’s tank training center is at Fort Knox.
New Armed Services Chairman Responds
The incoming Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), received his first call ever from President Obama the day after the election. McKeon, 72, supported Bush’s Iraq surge as well as Obama’s Afghan surge. He says major additional cuts from the Pentagon budget are not possible because of the dire need to modernize many aging weapon systems.
The new Chairman says modernization has been suffering for a long time and badly needed equipment upgrades must be sent to the front lines. The problem we are facing, he believes, is that practically all of our weapons are getting older, shoddier and less reliable. There are far fewer of them then just two decades ago, and they’re being used twice as hard. McKeon says both of the Paul’s have things backwards in that we need to be increasing not decreasing Pentagon appropriations.
The War on Terror
As of July 27, 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service, the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan has cost $1.1 trillion. Iraq was $751 billion (67%) and Afghanistan was 336 billion (30%). This has now shifted to 60% for Afghanistan and and 40% of Iraq. While it may seem like a lot, this is still a drop in the bucket compared to total spending over the decade.
Liberals tend to overstate the cost of war on the budget. While high, this is around 4% of total spending. (UPDATE: CBO figures have now been revised. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $1.26 trillion from 2001 to 2011. Total spending is $29.8 trillion and deficits over the same period were $6.2 trillion. Also, even if we didn’t have these war costs, the national debt would be out of control.
A $330 Billion Savings
The incoming Chairman points to Afghanistan and Iraq where F-15s of the 1970’s are being widely used, but because of their age they are very expensive to maintain. The incoming Kentucky Senator did not acknowledge that 31 major Pentagon programs have already been cut, and it represents a cost saving of $330 billion.
The only veto threat President Obama made in the 111th Congress concerned defense spending. He promised to veto any bill that either increased spending or included funds for additional F-22 fighter jets. In addition, two more major programs are about to be added to the cut list: future production of the C-17 cargo plane will be stopped, and there will be no new engine for the F-35 fighter jet. The House Armed Services Committee fully supports the new engine, but this is another sacrifice the Pentagon will be making.
The number of military commands around the world are also being cut, and the U.S. Joint Forces Command was the first to go. Furthermore, the number of slots for senior officers are being reduced. The expected cost savings of Defense Secretary Gates’ recent reforms is expected to be $100 billion over the next five years, and all of that money is needed for modernization programs.
Military Modernization Programs Have Come to a Halt
The Pentagon budget has increased over the past decade, but these funds have not gone for weapons or equipment. The money has gone to the 46% increase in personnel costs, and that does not include their health care or retirement pay. 54% of the budget is spent on salaries and benefits for service members. If you want to really cut the budget the easy way is to get rid of the all volunteer military and bring back the draft.
An excellent example of the major reductions which have already been made at the Pentagon is the production halt of the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter. This supersonic plane is the most sophisticated fighter in the world, and it was designed for combating a high tech enemy.
The Air Force wanted 648 of them when the Cold War was on, and this request was reduced to 347 places a decade later. Now the Air Force has to settle for 187 planes.
Similar to the B-2 bomber, the F-22 is so costly and valuable, and there are so few of them, it is not used in combat but in training. The F-22 production line is now winding down but the F-35’s deployment date is uncertain. Examples of other reductions include:
- The Air Force has already been cut from 4,200 fighters and attack aircraft in 1991 to 1,498 today. The next generation bomber has also been cut back.
- The number of Navy ships have been cut in half since the Reagan modernization program. The Navy’s DDG-1000 destroyer has been canceled.
- The new Army combat vehicle is gone along with whole sections of their multiplatform Future Combat Systems. This was the Army’s top modernization program. The Crusader artillery gun and the Comanche helicopter have also been cut.
- The Pentagon has already purchased 288 V-22 Osprey helicopters and now the program will be ended at two-thirds of the planned buy.
- Last year Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Patraeus asked for 40,000 troops for an Afghan surge, but they got 30,000 instead.
The Pentagon budget For The Next Decade is Already Flat.
The FY 2010 Pentagon budget represents 3.65% of GDP ($534 billion). The 2011 defense budget is $548.9 billion, but this does not include war spending. Pentagon budgets over the next five years will only have 1% increases over inflation. This 1% real growth is still a net reduction for modernization efforts.
Once again, over half of the Pentagon budget is consumed by personnel costs which have risen significantly since the draft was ended and the nation now relies on an all-volunteer military. The budget deficit is really due to the rapid growth of entitlement programs, which are over $2 trillion/year. Domestic and social welfare spending consumes 80% of GDP and is on track to surpass 100%.
There is no serious attempt to address entitlements which represent 50 percent of all spending. In the current budget the Pentagon accounts for 14.44% of total outlays of $3.591 trillion, and it ranks fourth in government spending programs. Welfare spending is $888 billion, social security is $696 billion, and healthcare is $542 billion. That will increase significantly with the new “comprehensive national healthcare reform.”
Why Do We Have to Spent So Much Money on Defense?
The United States does spend a lot of money on defense and that is one reason America has allies. If we are not able or willing to help in a crisis there is no reason remain our allies and the system of collective security would break down. When America’s foreign policy shifts to isolationism, big wars happen, such as WW I and WW II. As former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) says: “With today’s global threats and allies’ diminishing military capabilities, freedom will increasingly depend on American strength.”
Wise Words From Defense Secretary Robert Gates:
Four times in the last century the United States has come to the end of a war, concluded that the nature of man and the world had changed for the better, and turned inward, unilaterally disarming and dismantling institutions important to our national security – in the process, giving ourselves a ‘peace’ dividend. Four times we chose to forget history. Four times we have had to rebuild and rearm, at huge cost in blood and treasure.
After September 11th, the United States re-armed and again strengthened our intelligence capabilities. It will be critically important to sustain those capabilities in the future – it will be critically important not to make the same mistake a fifth time. . . .
In economic tough times people see the defense budget as the place to solve the nation’s deficit problems, to find money for other parts of the government. My greatest worry is that we will do to the defense budget what we have done four times before. And that is, slash it in an effort to find some kind of a dividend to put the money someplace else. I think that would be disastrous in the world environment we see today and what we’re likely to see in the years to come.
Ron and Rand Paul Are Not Alone
President Obama’s debt commission (the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) wants to take away Gates’ $100 billion in savings. They do not want this money to go to other areas of the Pentagon, and instead want it to be used for deficit reduction. The debt commission is also recommending a three year military pay freeze, a 15 percent procurement cut, reducing overseas basing personnel by a third, a 10 percent research funding cut.
Fully half of their reduction proposals target the Pentagon. They want another $100 billion in reductions over the next five years on top of the existing $100 billion Gates is already trying to reprogram. They want to reduce American forces in Korea by 17,000 troops, which leave 11,500, Others are urging a five-year freeze on Pentagon spending from 2012 and 2016.