By Winslow T. Wheeler
Military.com, 9 August 2011
The rhetoric of people rushing to rescue Pentagon spending from “completely unacceptable” cuts is quite hysterical. Leading the chorus has been Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. He termed the possible defense budget cuts (about $850 billion over 10 years according to most) a “doomsday mechanism,” if the automatic sequestration trigger of Obama’s debt deal with the Republicans in Congress is pulled. Some think tank types, opining in the Washington Post and the New York Times, have deemed these reductions “indiscriminately hacking away” at the Pentagon’s budget and something that could “imperil America’s national security.” Their defense spending allies, including multiple generals and admirals sitting atop various Pentagon bureaucracies, confirm it all with descriptions like “very high risk” and “draconian.”
It should be pointed out that these people are underestimating the size of the potential cuts the new debt deal could theoretically cause. The $850 billion supposition measures the reductions against an artificial “baseline” from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that does not include the actual budget growth the Pentagon had scheduled for itself. Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments tells us in a useful analysis (“Defense Funding in the Budget Control Act of 2011”) that the debt deal’s automatic sequesters, if implemented, would mean $968 billion in cuts over ten years from the DOD budgets heretofore planned – over $100 billion more in cuts.