This seems like a relatively simple question. For different reasons, both POTUS and Congress apaprently seek to break the military. POTUS’ view, arguably rooted in anticolonialism, focuses on reducing the US, to include the military, to the status of the Third World, while in Congressional (read: Tea Party) minds, the military is the principal cash cow and thus acceptable/desirable collateral damage in the pell-mell races for (1) “deficit reduction” and (2) some strange version of a “peace dividend” to reallocate dollars from “makers” to “takers.” Sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost, another Task Force Smith will occur, etc.
Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 7, 2013 , Pg. 14
Searching For Straight Answers
Why do Obama and Congress refuse to help the Pentagon plan for budget cuts?
By Joseph Anselmo
Business was booming for Raytheon at the recent Paris air show. The defense electronics giant’s “hospitality chalet” — a two-story structure set up for VIP meetings — was packed with prospective buyers from places such as Oman, Qatar and Japan. “This is the busiest I have ever been at an air show,” proclaimed CEO Bill Swanson, who is aiming to raise exports to 30% of Raytheon’s sales, up from an impressive 26%.
But amid the hubbub at Le Bourget, even Raytheon could not escape the stench of politics in Washington. Contractors are unsure how sequestration, the automatic U.S. spending cuts that took effect in March, will affect future Defense Department budgets. “It sucks all the air out of the room,” laments Swanson. “I cannot have a meeting without having the subject come up.”
A key element of running a successful business is planning for the future. Defense industry executives acknowledge they can cope with smaller U.S. budgets, and contractors have moved to prepare for leaner times by cutting workforces and closing facilities. Profit margins have, by and large, held up. The problem, however, is that the industry’s biggest customer, the Pentagon, cannot get a straight answer on its future budgets.
Sequestration cut $37 billion from this year’s Pentagon budget and — if Congress sticks to its habit of doing nothing but expending hot air — will take another $52 billion in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1. Stunningly, President Barack Obama and Congress refuse to begin planning for these reductions. Obama sent a fiscal 2014 budget proposal to Capitol Hill that pretends the sequestration cuts do not exist. And now Congress is continuing the charade.
As Aviation Week’s Michael Bruno reports, every bill marked up so far — from the House defense authorization to the House Appropriations Committee’s defense and nuclear weapons spending measures and the Senate Armed Services Committee’s authorization draft — shares the delusion that the 2011 Budget Control Act and its across-the-board cuts did not occur. This has frustrated military planners, to put it mildly.
“Many of us inside the business right now are kind of tired of talking about this,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the U.S. Air Force’s chief of staff, said last month. “Let’s just figure out where we’re going and get moving.”
Congress’s charade has been enabled by public misperceptions. Early this year, in an effort to pressure Republicans into agreeing to more tax increases, the Obama administration waged a campaign of scaremongering, warning of dire consequences if sequestration were allowed to take effect. When the cuts arrived and the sky did not fall, voters concluded it was really not a big deal after all. Such perceptions were reinforced when Congress, fearful of political backlash, rushed to find money to halt furloughs of air traffic controllers.
But sequestration is not going away. Left unchecked, it will go on for another nine years. That leaves some big questions on the table: Will the Pentagon be able to afford to buy all of the F-35s in its plans? Will the Navy need to reduce its fleet of aircraft carriers? Will there be a gap in U.S. weather satellite coverage? What does the future hold for NASA?
Much of the mess could be sorted out if Republicans and Democrats could compromise on a plan to balance the budget by reining in unsustainable social entitlements and closing tax loopholes. There is no doubt defense spending will still be cut, but at least military planners will have some stable footing as they undertake a post-Afghanistan “pivot” to focus more on Asia-Pacific affairs.
And if lawmakers cannot find a way to lessen or halt sequestration, they should begin making the hard budget choices that will be required rather than pretending that it is business as usual. Obama can take the lead by crafting a budget that incorporates the cuts. That at least would allow the Defense Department and other agencies to plan for them.
Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Congress’s inaction “dangerous and callous.” It is also a national disgrace. History will not be kind in judging this generation of lawmakers.
Phi Beta Iota: This is puffery. Giving the Secretary of Defense clear marching orders, cut 30% with roughly 10% a year for each of the next three years, is all that a President or Congress should have to do in the way of guidance. The fact is that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel — with the best of intentions — is surrounded by liars and cannot obtain intelligence with integrity from anyone now employed by the US Government (which those who do know how to provide intelligence with integrity are marginalized and blocked from reaching either Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. There is absolutely no question but that the US military is bloated by at least 40%, and most of that is in Navy big ships that do not work as advertised, and all too few Air Force programs that add an engine to more bells and whistles and toxic stealth overcoats than ever before in history. The Pentagon is out of control. The Services will tell any lie to keep budget share. Even the Army — the 4% of the force that takes 80% of the casualties and gets 1% of the budget (for its people) — is totally lost because it cannot bring itself to fight the other services and point out that an honest Navy would not have as many Admirals as it has ships, and an honest Air Force would focus on long-haul and be able to do two Berlin Airlifts at once — one with organic and one with conscripted air. In a word, the Pentagon is dishonest to the bone. Military disarray comes from military dishonesty. It is a self-inflicted wound.