Defense Budget Cuts – Not So Much

It’s true that the devil is in the details. It is especially true, though, with legislative budgets. I wrote earlier about the Pentagon’s suggestions for $45 billion in cuts to its own budget and how much of it targets the bloated benefits plans for members of the military.

Yay for cutting the defense budget. But the details are not so encouraging (as one would expect).

For example, “the Pentagon apparently still intends to retain 11 aircraft carriers, possibly cutting into modernization of the Navy’s surface combatant ships,” explains Cato’s Chris Preble. “As had been reported earlier, the venerable A-10 attack aircraft is going away, but the Pentagon remains committed to the troubled F-35.”

The proposal was reported as one that would shrink the U.S. army to pre-WWII levels. Needless to say, that is disingenuous. Yes, troop levels will go “from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000” to “between 440,000 and 450,000,” but other parts of the budget are getting a boost.

Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney list “winners” and “losers” – or, those parts of the budget getting more money or staying the same versus those getting cut. Here are the winners:

Special-operations forces: The military’s elite special-operations forces, which burgeoned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were at the forefront of the U.S. fight against al-Qaida, will increase from their current level of roughly 66,000 service members to 69,700. This is one key example of how the military, even in more austere times, is trying to protect, as Hagel put it, “capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future.”

Military retirement funds: While the Pentagon is offering some modest reforms to military benefits, overall, Pentagon officials have sworn off making changes to the military retirement system in next year’s budget—even though they want to curb its rapid growth that threatens to usurp other key priorities in a downsized defense budget.

After the quick—and bipartisan—backlash in Congress to a provision in December’s budget agreement that cut approximately $6 billion in military pensions, Pentagon officials made it clear they would wait to propose major changes until a commission makes its recommendations in February.

Bases: Hagel is calling for another round of base closures that could take place in 2017. The Pentagon desperately wants to get rid of its excess military bases and facilities. However, especially in an election year, the bases may escape unscathed—and Hagel knows it. “I am mindful that Congress has not agreed to our BRAC requests of the last two years,” Hagel said.

Navy cruiser fleet: Half of the Navy’s cruiser fleet is going to be “laid up”—put in the shipyard—to be upgraded. This in some ways is a work-around, since the Navy has previously tried to decommission some cruisers, instead of providing expensive overhauls, but Congress refused. The Pentagon’s proposal is a more creative way to save some money short-term, since the ships will not be operating—but these 11 cruisers will “eventually” be returned “to service with greater capability and a longer lifespan.”

Cybersecurity: Cyber spending—from cybersecurity to intelligence gathering and reconnaissance—will get a boost. Hagel said last week that the Pentagon is “adjusting our asset base and our new technology.”

The “losers” include cutting the Army’s force size, possibly closing bases in Europe, some military compensation, and some Air Force  weapons systems. Read their full report here.

The line coming from those resisting these relatively modest budget cuts is that it will weaken the United States and its position in the world. Actually, if the U.S.’s position in the world is what you’re worried about, then cutting defense should be priority number one. The U.S. spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on its military. And as Paul Kennedy wrote, “If…too large a portion of the state’s resources is diverted from wealth creation and allocated instead to military purposes, then that is likely to lead to a weakening of national power over the longer term.”

The U.S. is getting to the point where it’s economy can’t go fast enough to keep up with the ever-expanding needs of the state.

10 thoughts on “Defense Budget Cuts – Not So Much”

  1. I like the half awake and closed lips our defense minister very much. After down sizing the military, Chuck Hegel should be made our Finance minister, where he can cut our budget to our size of the pockets rather than our waist size,and let we should spend what we can earn, rather than borrowing trillion from others. Soon it will make us to eat only what we can earn and our more than 45% Americans will back to their human size from their beast size eating others food. It will also solve many problems we are creating in the world forcing others to follow our dictates starting from the U. N. to universe.

  2. Was set to comment on the other article that any benefit cuts would be expended elsewhere, but thought I should check this article first. Much as expected the money is just being shuffled around.
    And let us not forget that the Pentagon has lost track of at least $3.5 trillion and possibly as much as $8 trillion during the last 15 years. Search on Pentagon + Missing + Trillion for more info.

  3. "Actually, if the U.S.’s position in the world is what you’re worried about, then cutting defense should be priority number one."

    The US is currently considered the biggest threat to world peace. No other country come close. War-profiteers worry about the US position in the world – they worry that fear of the US might decline and the US might stop being an isolationist country, join the international community, and help foster democracy rather than overthrowing and preventing it continually, while supporting and carrying out fascism and torture worldwide.

  4. The bloated US government and its War (not Defense) Department is the biggest threat to world peace aside from the international criminal tribe controlling it. These so-called budget cuts are just reshuffling as RICinOR said. The DoD still remains the world's second-largest "employer" after the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

    But take away the nukes, what do you have? Several hundred military bases around the world, to be sure. Then you have 11 obsolete aircraft carriers that would be toast against any modern Russian anti-ship missiles and submarines, the hideous problem-plagued F-35 that MiGs and Sukhois would have for breakfast and an Army, Navy and Air Force full of 75-IQ gangbangers and mental and genetic defectives, rapists and perverts who would never make it in a real job. The only reason the US military has been dominant is because they have been making war on practically defenseless Third World countries since 1945, and even then not 100% successfully when you factor in Vietnam and the current mess in Afghanistan. I doubt our "heroes" would do as well fighting someone that could actually seriously hurt them, like Russia or China.

    1. Werner,
      Good post. I was in the military back when military service was automatic poverty. When I got , I doubled my salary within a week; I smiled a lot. Today, if they start laying off soldiers, there will moaning like you never heard before, because the military now pays very well and civilian opportunities are non-existent. And as you say a lot of our "troops", couldn't make it on the outside. We have a bloated military empire and I think we are stuck with it. But not for long; empire is the last stop before feudalism.

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