Take the 'Kick Me' Sign off the Defense Budget
Am I the only one who remembers November of 2011, when the administrator of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid, Dr. Donald M. Berwick announced publicly -- before resigning his post -- that the system has an "extremely high level of waste" upwards of 30 percent? It seems that the president either doesn't remember this or has no interest in doing anything about it. What he does seem to be open to is the crippling of our military.
The so called "Fiscal Cliff" deal that was reached on New Year's was the quintessential example of the 'kick the can down the road' politicking at which this president and Congress excel. It has been 566 days between the date the debt-deal was signed in 2011 and President's Day 2013; during which the crisis posed by potentially crippling defense cuts from sequestration could and should have been addressed. But instead of dealing with this problem, we simply postponed it for two months.
The sequestration cuts would hollow out an already slashed defense budget and would have serious repercussions for our military. Limiting the military's readiness and hampering its ability to deploy forces to crucial parts of a world growing increasingly dangerous.
During the presidential debates last year, the president stated that sequestration "will not happen." But his rhetoric doesn't match his actions. Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the Department of Defense (DoD) has had a 'kick me' sign on its back, serving as an ideological bulls eye to be targeted by this administration for indiscriminate assault.
Since 2009, the DoD has gone through several rounds of deep cuts totaling around $400 billion in spending, in an effort to be more efficient. On top of this, an additional $487 billion in cuts was put in place under the president's FY2012 budget as part of long term caps in spending established in the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Having been described by many experts as taking a "meat cleaver instead of a scalpel" approach to defense cuts, sequestration will bring about additional across-the-board cuts of $500 billion to the defense budget over the next decade. In all, these cuts, combined with the $487 billion in cuts already in effect, could potentially slash up to $1 trillion from projected defense spending over the next decade -- and such cuts will be in addition to the $400 billion in defense cuts already put into effect from 2009-2011.
It is important to root out waste in all government spending, defense included. But when social programs (e.g. Medicare and Social Security) -- which constitute, approximately 2/3rds of the federal budget -- go largely unaffected by the sequester, and with over $800 billion in defense cuts already in effect, it's about time we started looking at other areas of the federal budget to find savings.
Over the past two decades the size of the U.S. military has declined, while the number and scope of missions tasked to the U.S. military has grown extensively. During this same time, entitlement spending has increased every year and is now at the highest levels it's been in American history and within the next 12 years entitlement spending and debt payments are projected consume all of the federal governments' revenue.
I'm not saying that the defense budget should be seen as a "sacred cow". But it's important for us to remember that it is our Constitutional obligation to maintain a military in order to "provide for the common defense". Additionally, it is our moral obligation to ensure that our troops -- the ones we send into harm's way -- are well protected and receive the best equipment and protection available to ensure their safety as well as ours.
The delay of sequestration means we have set up another fiscal crisis to take place at the end of February. The president is still holding an ax above the head of the defense budget and will use this as a partisan bargaining chip to ensure minimal cuts are placed on entitlements.
If the president is serious about ensuring that sequestration doesn't happen then it's about time he removes the 'kick me' sign from the back of the defense budget, and starts looking at some of the true drivers of our debt, such as the "extremely high level of waste" reportedly in Medicare and Medicaid.
Alex VanNess is the Senior Outreach Manager for the Center for Security Policy