What Defense Cuts?

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The fear-mongering about impending defense cuts is becoming deafening. Yet even if sequestration happens in January, the Congressional Budget Office says the Pentagon will still be spending as much as it did in 2006. While the cuts may be crude – that is how Congress wrote the law imposing it – they are not draconian.

Here’s a new and interesting CBO chart. All the sturm und drang is about the flat budget lines in the “FYDP Period” on the chart – Pentagon spending over the next five years. Only by turning your level upside down and standing on your head can you call those flat lines “cuts” in the normal taxpayer sense of the word.

But what’s really, ahem, priceless is another CBO chart.

It tracks the Pentagon’s current plans without sequestration, which would lop about $600 billion from the U.S. military’s bottom line over the coming decade. The Pentagon has been insisting for months that sequestration must be avoided because the military has already pared $487 billion from its 10-year spending plan. We’ve already cut so deeply, senior defense officials plead. Cutting more will endanger the nation’s security. Those cuts have been called “huge” by lawmakers who should know better. Here’s the CBO’s estimate from this chart of just how much the Pentagon’s procurement account will be cut from 2013 to 2017 under its current plans:


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Zbigniew M. Mazurak
Zbigniew M. Mazurak

Mr Thompson, your blogpost, which was clearly intended to downplay sequestration and mislead the American people into thinking that it wouldn't mean any real defense spending cuts, has utterly failed to do the job. If anything, it provides additional evidence that sequestration would be disastrous.

Look at your own graph at the top. It shows how high defense spending would be with sequestration, without it, and without First Tier BCA-mandated cuts. Your own graph, borrowed from the CBO, shows that WITH sequestration, defense spending would be much lower than without it.

Moreover, it shows that under sequestration, defense would be cut immediately, in FY2013, to $491 bn and be kept essentially flat. By FY2022, a full decade from now, it would still be only $500 bn in constant dollars. The deep cut would occur in FY2013, at the beginning of the FYDP, and only AFTER that big cut would defense stay flat (throughout the rest of, and after, the FYDP).

That IS a big and real spending cut. It's akin to punching someone so that he'll fall onto the ground, then stomping on him to keep him down. That is exactly what will happen to defense under sequestration.

The debate about sequestration is NOT just about its impact in the FYDP window; it's about its impact throughout the entire next decade, including, and especially, the first FY, in which defense spending would have to be cut from $531 bn today to $491 bn (Larry Korb says $472 bn) in FY2013.

Those are real cuts. And such deep cuts cannot be made with pure efficiencies and "waste elimination"; they would unavoidably entail deep cuts to needed military capabilities and crucial modernization programs. That, in turn, will make America dramatically less safe.

The FY2006 defense budget was inadequate even then, and would be even more inadequate now. And it was passed over 6 years ago, for goodness sake! Setting defense spending by six (or more) years would be a big cut. And setting DOD spending levels arbitrarily according to what was spent in a given past year is dumb - regardless of whether defense spending was lower or higher at the time.

Regarding your second graph, it's apparent that not only can't you read a simple graph, you don't even read what you write. By your own admission, the 2nd graph depicts what procurement spending (a minority part of the defense budget) would look like WITHOUT sequestration.

If sequestration is avoided, the DOD might very well be able to increase procurement investments at the expense of something else (Oamp;M, the force structure, or health programs). The nation has been on a procurement holiday since the end of the Cold War. The vast majority of the military's equipment is obsolete and worn out. The bill for replacing it is now coming due.

But that scenario can transpire ONLY if sequestration is avoided.

But this whole debate is about what will happen if sequestration DOES OCCUR. And if it does (God forbid), your second graph will become immediately irrelevant and the procurement plan it represents will go out the window.

Mr Thompson, you are completely wrong, as usual. Sequestration WOULD represent a draconian and immediate cut, and any ambitious procurement plans can be implemented ONLY if it is avoided. As your own graphs prove.

Zbigniew M. Mazurak
Zbigniew M. Mazurak

A little piece of advice, Mr Thompson. When you make blatantly false claims, don't post evidence that directly and utterly refutes those claims.

Zbigniew M. Mazurak
Zbigniew M. Mazurak

The only thing that your garbage post proves, Mr Thompson, is your utter ignorance of defense issues, and the fact that you can't read even so much as a simple graph.

For starters, contrary to your pious denials, sequestration WOULD be draconian, as even your own graph (not to mention a vast body of other evidence) shows.

Look at your own graph (the first one). As it shows, under sequestration, defense would take a big hit in FY2013. After that, by your own admission, it would remain flat for the rest of the FYDP - and after that, it would start VERY slow growth, barely climbing back to $500 bn in FY2022, 10 years from now. So under sequestration, even a decade from now, defense spending would be $31 bn lower than it is now. (The FY2012 base defense budget is $531 bn.)

This is consistent with what the CBO has been saying for a long time. Several months ago, they said that under sequestration, defense would be cut down to $491 bn, after which it would resume very slow growth... but still not reach today's levels for a long time to come. (I have the CBO graph on my computer and will gladly share with anyone interested.)

But even more disturbing is how much exactly in spending the DOD would have to cut out: $1.087 trillion over a decade, or $108.7 bn every FY on average. Such cuts cannot be made through efficiencies and waste elimination alone. They would require deep cuts in needed military capabilities and modernization - at a time when the military is long overdue for modernization and the world is getting more dangerous, not less.

I've reviewed many "waste-cutting" proposals from the POGO, the NTU, the PIRG, Sen. Tom Coburn, and many others, and yet, the vast majority of the cuts they propose would be cuts to actual military capabilities and needed modernization programs (including deep cuts in the SSBN and carrier fleets, in the nuclear arsenal, in fighter programs, in missile defense, cancellation of the NGB, etc.). Those garbage proposal, paradoxically, only prove me right: deep defense cuts would inevitably mean deep cuts in military capabilities and thus a nation in unnecessary jeopardy. Such deep cuts cannot be made through "waste elimination" alone.

And as for your second graph, it seems you not only can't read simple pictures, you don't even read your own blogposts. By your own admission, it depicts:

a) only a part of the defense budget (the procurement part); and

b) shows what that part would look like WITHOUT SEQUESTRATION.

In case you haven't noticed, this whole debate is how badly America's defense would be cut with sequestration. Debates about how great things would be without it are purely academic.

Without sequestration, the DOD may indeed be able, through cuts elsewhere (e.g. to Oamp;M and personnel expenditures), to shift more money to procurement. And I sincerely hope they do. The vast majority of the military's current weapons are obsolete and worn out and need to be replaced. The bill for 10 years of overuse and over 2 decades of a procurement holiday is coming due. Modernization can no longer be delayed.

But if sequestration goes through, the DOD's plan to invest more money in procurement will go out the window, not least because sequestration would mean cuts in EVERY category of the DOD budget, including procurement. If the President exempts personnel spending from sequestration, the cuts to PROCUREMENT will be even deeper.

So, to sum up: sequestration would mean REAL and DEEP defense cuts, which would gut America's defense and jeopardize national security; it would cut defense so low that it wouldn't return to its current level for more than a decade (if ever); and the only way the DOD can increse procurement investments is if sequestration DOESN'T happen.

Your blog is just another garbage anti-defense propaganda piece. You're one of those defense-cutters who, on the one hand, clamors for ever deeper defense cuts, and on the other hand, claims that no real defense cuts have so far occurred or are scheduled. That is deceptive and despicable.

Kevin Brent
Kevin Brent




Just kidding. Maybe. Did you really have a point? Whos lying the CBO? what was the lie?