In his straightforward and scathing piece for today’s New York Post, Heritage senior fellow Peter Brookes discussed the devastating impact a sequestration of the defense budget would have on America’s military.
If the congressional “super committee” cannot find $1.5 trillion in budget savings over the next 10 years by November 23, the law would trigger automatic spending “sequestration” cuts of $1.2 trillion—of which roughly half a trillion or more would be from the defense budget. This spells major trouble for U.S. national security.
Since President Obama has been in office, Brookes points out, there have already been some $850 billion in Defense Department spending cuts (past, present, and future) over a 10-year period. These cuts eliminate 50 major weapons programs, and any more cuts would, in the words of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “be shooting ourselves in the head.”
These are scary words coming from (in Brookes’s words) “previously a green eye-shade ‘budgeteer’” like Panetta, but they are backed up by a recent House Armed Services Committee report that spells doom and gloom for our military and our economy if more cuts are made.
According to the report, the cuts would effectively “hollow out” America’s military. They would deeply undermine the Marine Corps and the expeditionary fighting force, leading to the smallest force in 50 years and compromising their ability to deploy to hot spots quickly in the event of a crisis—a hard-learned lesson from the Korean War. The cuts would take the Army below pre-9/11 troop levels and lead to an Air Force with two-thirds fewer fighters and strategic bombers than in 1990.
And last but not least, the Navy would have to mothball over 60 ships, including two carrier battle groups, shrinking it below pre–World War I levels.
America’s nuclear deterrent force—the foundation of U.S. national security—would be undermined as we would likely lose one of the legs of the U.S. nuclear triad. As the U.S. nuclear deterrent shrinks and loses credibility, some of the 31 countries that enjoy protection under the U.S. nuclear umbrella may consider going nuclear out of growing fears about their vulnerability. This would be extremely destabilizing and could lead to costly conflicts.
These cuts, Brookes warns, would “harm our ability to deter, dissuade or deal with adversarial activities and shape world events in our favor.” This is particularly the case with Iran and North Korea as well as with China, which has increased its yearly defense budget by double digits for the past two decades and has shown itself to be increasingly assertive in Asia Pacific. With rising threats to America’s interests at home and abroad, now is not the time to reduce America’s military deterrence.
Finally, America needs to reform the real drivers of the debt crisis—the big three entitlements—instead of trying to balance the budget on the backs of the U.S. military and compromising U.S. national security.