The Battle Over the Defense Budget Cuts: Will Reality or Lobbyists Win the Debate?

The Washington Post editorial on Monday, November 7th illustrates the extent to which the Defense industry lobbyists have won over the mainstream mass media in their effort to spare their lucrative high-tech projects and contracts from feared cuts. The Washington Post should be ashamed of its editorial “Defense on the Rocks: mandated spending cuts could decimate U.S. Military might.”  They got it wrong on judging the impact and seem to have become a front for the military industrial establishment. They quote a host of military leaders and DOD Secretary Leon Panetta decrying in hysteric terms the impact of just 10% cuts in a bloated $700 billion budget even as we wind down two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They also seem to want to create a new “Cold War” in Asia to justify keeping half of our entire discretionary budget for the military as we cut away at vital domestic programs at even greater levels if the GOP in Congress has its way.  While many think Congress will come up with a way before 2013 to save DOD these cuts, the impact of that action could mean 20% cuts to everything else including our diplomatic and international programs which respond to conflicts before or instead of putting boots on the ground.

It seems that DOD has largely bought the idea of unneeded weapons systems including funding for impractical and gratuitous nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The savings on excessive nuclear weapons modernization alone could amount to tens of billions.  The focus of our security strategy over the next decade needs to be on confronting pinpointed risks with highly trained and properly equipped troops and preventive diplomacy tools, rather than on the military’s desire for unnecessary and expensive weapons and technologies to fight the cold war that does not protect us from the security landscape that is today.

Panetta’s statements about the need to cut retirement pay, health benefits, base closings, medical programs, etc. seem to be aimed at cutting useful people rather than industrial contracts. While Secretary Panetta hinted at cuts to weapons systems like the expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, with the goal to build 2,400 planes and a pricetag of about $400 billion over two decades, it seems less likely that he will do so. What need do we have for such an expensive system when our key security challenges can’t be addressed by such a force?

According to Panetta, some of the biggest defense savings will come from “reduced levels of modernization in some areas.”  Let’s start with cutting back on nuclear weapons systems and “modernization” that also are of little use against terrorists. In fact, we are planned to have 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 launchers under the New START treaty.  Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced at a recent press conference that he and 64 other Democratic House members had signed a letter to the “super committee” asking for reductions of tens of billions of dollars to nuclear weapons programs.  They wrote that reducing “outdated and unnecessary nuclear weapons” would “allow us to continue funding the national defense programs that matter most.”

So who will win the battle of the budget cuts?  Cynics would say those who have the most money to influence the media, Congress and DOD. Already they have won one key newspaper and a powerful group in Congress in both parties that depends on defense contracts in their states.  One wonders however why the same GOP Congress members voted against infrastructure funding, clean energy projects and other vital domestic needs with even higher employment outcomes, rather than against bloated defense contracts for systems that will sit useless on bases and create no further economic growth or employment and just higher debt or force further cuts for our poor and middle class?  Which option will really contribute to our national security?

By Harry C. Blaney III.

2 thoughts on “The Battle Over the Defense Budget Cuts: Will Reality or Lobbyists Win the Debate?

  1. Harry Blaney November 11, 2011 / 12:19 AM

    Yes and a number of other systems. We do have the need for effective means for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping, protection of human rights, and addressing the basic causes of conflict.

  2. Paul Sack November 10, 2011 / 4:27 PM

    The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is necessary to oppose an airplane that was to have been built by the Soviet Union when there was a Soviet Union. We have no need for the F-35.

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