On October 15th, our military personnel will receive their paychecks as usual, thanks to a last-minute act of Congress passed in spite of the government shutdown affecting much of the rest of the government.
But our servicemen and women are being paid to work in a military that is rapidly being hollowed out to the point where it may be incapable of winning the nation’s wars. The federal government will not be shut down for long. The same can’t be said of those we expect to keep us safe and free.
In fact, the “fundamental” transformation promised by candidate Barack Obama in 2008 is arguably manifesting itself most dramatically in the systematic dismantling of our military capabilities. It has lately become so severe that, on September 18th, the nation’s senior officers testified to Congress that the armed services are at risk of being unable to meet even this administration’s sharply scaled-back requirements.
Recall that the President had justified the first nearly half a trillion dollars he cut from the defense budget by claiming that we no longer needed to be able to fight two wars nearly simultaneously. But at least they were supposed to be able to win one.
But now, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if the sequestration process is permitted to continue to reduce Pentagon budgets over the next ten years by another half a trillion dollars, the uniformed leaders of three of the four services say they will not be able to execute even a one-war mission. And the Marine Commandant says his would have difficulty in doing so.
These dire predictions are the predictable – and predicted – results of both the sheer magnitude of the cuts themselves, compounded by the inherent, across-the-board nature of the sequestration mechanism. Insult is added to injury by the fact that the Pentagon has to bear a wildly disproportionate percentage of government-wide sequestration reductions: fifty percent of the total, even though defense represents just twenty percent of federal expenditures.
At present, every aspect of the military budget except for compensation for military personnel – including, in particular, training, operations and maintenance, procurement and research and development – is being ravaged.
What is more, regardless of the outcome of the fights over Obamacare this week, and raising the debt ceiling later this month, the structural damage resulting from the defense budget cuts to the nation’s industrial base is becoming increasingly irreparable.
The production line for the Free World’s only large military air transport aircraft, the C-17, is the latest to be threatened with termination. As with the supply chains associated with other critical weapon systems and components – from fighter aircraft to combatant warships to armored vehicles – we are seeing disruptions and, in some cases, the outright elimination of the required manufacturing capacity, especially among second- and third-tier subcontractors. Over time, such short-sighted behavior will tremendously compound the impact of the other reductions in the military’s resources and make any comeback that much more problematic.
The repercussions of such decisions are not affecting adversely just the national security. It is also having profound repercussions in our economy, as well. The United States is losing what will shortly become over 1 million jobs. Among those bearing the burden of such losses are small businesses that have contributed for decades to our common defense. Notably, under the sequester regimen, minority-owned businesses are losing over $5 billion in revenue per year, and women-owned businesses over $2 billion per year.
Two years ago, such prospects prompted then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to warn that sequestration would be like “shooting ourselves in the head.” Regrettably, both the Republican and Democratic leadership now seem intent on pulling the trigger. Apparently, like Team Obama and Harry Reid’s Senate Democrats, the GOP now finds it easier to cut defense rather than entitlements today, even if, by so doing, they are leaving America at risk tomorrow, both in terms of our national security and our financial security.
This is a formula for disaster for the Republican Party. In addition, first and foremost, to the compelling national security considerations for supporting the practice of what Ronald Reagan called “peace through strength” and secondarily the economic ones, the GOP has another reason to challenge and reject the Obama wrecking operation with respect to the common defense. Historically, when they have steadfastly championed the unrivaled military needed in an increasingly dangerous world, Republicans have been rewarded at the polls. And when, instead, they have abandoned this part of their brand, they generally have neither earned nor received the public trust and mandate.
For all these reasons, in the difficult budget and deficit fights ahead, the Loyal Opposition must find its bearings and coalesce around a restoration of our national security, not be party to its further dismantling.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. formerly acted as an Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan. He is President of the Center for Security Policy (www.SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for the Washington Times, and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio.