By MICHAEL D. OSTROLENK
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), who is Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), said recently on CNN, “We cannot keep asking the military to perform mission after mission with sequestration… hanging over their heads.” He pointed out that Obama has surged troops in Afghanistan, flown missions over Libya, and changed strategy to focus on the Pacific all while cutting Pentagon spending. McKeon said, “Our military has had over a trillion dollars of cuts over the last couple of years and going forward.”
Chairman McKeon makes some good points, but they mostly out of context. There have not been trillions of dollars in cuts to the Pentagon. He was not given all of the money he requested, but that’s not an actual cut. The U.S. government is $17 trillion dollars in debt. He cannot wish the debt away so the U.S. military can buy all that his defense contractor friends want to sell Uncle Sam. There are fiscal realities that need to be addressed. Sequestration was a really poor way of doing so, but it was not Obama’s alone. It was part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), which was supported by both the House (run by Republicans) and Senate before being signed into law by President Obama. And sequestration will not lead to trillions in cuts to the Pentagon budget.
Parts of his statements have some truth, though. Yes, our military cannot operate as it has while we’re also reducing Pentagon spending. But we are not engaged in Iraq any longer, and we are winding down operations in Afghanistan. There is no need to spend the type of money we did while engaged in two wars. Also, it might prove prudent to start asking tough questions and not just throwing money and other resources at unquestioned assumptions about the threats the U.S faces in an ever-changing world.
A few questions to ask:
Perhaps the U.S. should not pivot to Asia or have participated in Libya and soon in Syria?
Maybe we should re-evaluate the threats we actually face versus those we organize around and spend over a trillion dollars a year against (Pentagon plus DHS/ intelligence agencies)?
Rep. McKeon could lead a revolution in military thinking to address 21st century threats and fiscal realities—or he can continue living in the 20th century with his military industrial complex mindset making us poorer and less safe.
I would encourage him to be a leader. Quit being partisan and seeking political gain and start promoting what’s best for the United States. He can start by opposing all U.S. military intervention in Syria. He can question the U.S. Cold War-era defense strategy and begin to seek real cuts of unneeded and wasteful programs and weapon systems at the Pentagon. If he wants some excellent suggestions on cuts, I would recommend to him the new report from the National Taxpayers Union and R Street Institute entitled “Defending America, Defending Taxpayers.” which finds up to 1.9 $ trillion in possible cuts to the Pentagon.