Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 02/14/2011

Why is Obama cutting the Pentagon's budget?

By Jennifer Rubin

President Obama isn't very serious about debt reduction, as we saw from his budget proposal. But he is quite determined to slash the Pentagon's budget. Jamie Fly and John Noonan of the Foreign Policy Initiative write in Politico today:

In advance of the budget's release, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced significant cuts to Pentagon programs, totaling $78 billion over five years. The cuts are deep and far-reaching and will jeopardize the U.S.'s ability to fight and win wars.

Several critical weapon systems, believed safe after surviving a round of cuts in 2009, will now be defunded -- forcing the services to develop less desirable options for force modernization already long overdue.

Most concerning, however, is a proposal to significantly decrease Army and Marine Corps end strength by tens of thousands of troops. Gates stated that by the end of 2015, the Army could be expected to sacrifice up to a full fighting division worth of soldiers, while the smaller Marine Corps would have to slash up to three brigades -- roughly 15,000 troops

Moreover, this comes on top of substantial cuts that Gates has already coughed up:

He canceled 20 major systems in 2009 totaling $300 billion -- including important programs such as the F-22 Raptor and the Army's Future Combat Systems. Other vital replacement systems, such as the Navy's CG(X) cruiser and the LCC Command Ship, were delayed or targeted for cancellation by last year's Quadrennial Defense Review.

In addition, Gates announced last year an effort to identify $100 billion of efficiencies in the Pentagon that could be reinvested in key modernization programs. While other federal agencies continue to run up spending and add to the deficit, Gates has worked intensively --- and successfully -- to clean up the Defense Department.

So why did the White House demand another round of Pentagon slashing? It certainly isn't in service of a serious debt reduction scheme. It's to allow Obama to keep spending with abandon on the domestic side on projects that are deeply flawed. For example, $53 billion of those cuts are being spent by the administration's light rail boondoggle. The Post's Robert Samuelson explains, "The administration would pay states $53 billion to build rail networks that would then lose money -- lots -- thereby aggravating the budget squeezes of the states or federal government, depending on which covered the deficits."

Moreover, it's a really bad idea:

High-speed rail would definitely be big. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has estimated that the administration's ultimate goal -- bringing high-speed rail to 80 percent of the population -- could cost $500 billion over 25 years. For this stupendous sum, there would be scant public benefits. Precisely the opposite. Rail subsidies would threaten funding for more pressing public needs: schools, police, defense. . . .

The reasons passenger rail service doesn't work in America are well-known: Interstate highways shorten many trip times; suburbanization has fragmented destination points; air travel is quicker and more flexible for long distances (if fewer people fly from Denver to Los Angeles and more go to Houston, flight schedules simply adjust). Against history and logic is the imagery of high-speed rail as "green" and a cutting-edge technology.

It's a triumph of fancy over fact. . . . What's disheartening about the Obama administration's embrace of high-speed rail is that it ignores history, evidence and logic. The case against it is overwhelming. The case in favor rests on fashionable platitudes. High-speed rail is not an "investment in the future"; it's mostly a waste of money. Good government can't solve all our problems, but it can at least not make them worse.

So to be clear: the administration is extracting new rounds of defense cuts that will entail troop reductions (and thereby increase the burden on our existing troops and their families) so that Obama can subsidize light rail systems that the public won't use. In the days ahead we will find out what other domestic inanities Obama wants to spend money on. But the Obama administration's ruse should be highlighted by House and Senate Republicans: He is cutting our defense to spend more on domestic programs. In this case, Gates should get back $53 billion in spending for needed forces and equipment during wartime, and the light rail project should be dumped.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 14, 2011; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Budget  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Will Obama now reverse course on Iran?
Next: Where are the spending cuts?

Comments

Don't worry about cuts in the Defense Department budget Jennifer. Our only ally in the Middle East will continue to protect us from the Muslim hordes as it has done for over sixty years.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | February 14, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Why is Obama cutting Pentagon's budget?

Just to piss off you and all the other chickenhawks/NeoCons.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 14, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

We should cut the pentagon budget AND the high speed rail. We spend nearly as much money on the military as the rest of the world combined.

Posted by: jbindc | February 14, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Defense shouldn't be exempt from spending cuts. As George Will recently wrote, they have yet to offer an audit-able budget. Let's first understand where present funds are being spent (and wasted) before we give them more.

Posted by: coffeetime | February 14, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Short answer-Because it is bloated abd the Def. Sec. is reccomending cuts. Not good enough for you? Please explain why cutting programs for the poor is better than cutting a jet engine that the air force doesn't want. Waiting.........

Posted by: mg11231 | February 14, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Gee, I can think of a dozen reasons to cut the defense budget. Here are just a few:

1. To quote mg11231, the budget is bloated. Plenty of room to get rid of inefficiences
2. 50,000 troops and going down in Iraq is a lot cheaper than 130,000 troops. We are winding down that war.
3. To piss off the Republicans. "You want to cut my favorite programs, I'll cut your favorite programs".
4. Without cuts in defense, the ability to eliminate deficits is almost mathematically impossible.
5. To expose the waste, fraud, and abuse of Congress. Defense dept doesn't want an alternative engine for the F-35, but Congress is going to vote to fund it anyway.

I could go on and on. Maybe (although I doubt it) you'll get the idea, Jennifer.

Posted by: warren5 | February 14, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

From Wikipedia, the board of directors of the Foreign Policy Initiative includes:

William Kristol
Robert Kagan
Dan Senor

Seriously, Ms. Rubin - are you being paid by Bill Kristol, because it seems that every post mentions him in some direct or indirect way.

Posted by: tracymohr | February 14, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"Short answer-Because it is bloated abd the Def. Sec. is reccomending cuts. Not good enough for you? Please explain why cutting programs for the poor is better than cutting a jet engine that the air force doesn't want. Waiting........."

mg11231, without bothering to address your implication that this is undoubtedly an either/or scenario, can you name a single person of significance who has said "let's keep that useless jet engine, we'll just pay for it by cutting back on some programs for the poor?" Waiting...........

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 14, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Rubin offers a false dichotomy. It is somehow wrong to cut Pentagon bloat and overly expensive elements of the Armed Forces because....Obama wants to waste money elsewhere on high speed rail??????

There are certain Pentagon projects I like if cost were no object.
I wouldn't mind recruiting then deploying whole Army Divisions at a cost of a million per soldier per year to "build things for the noble Afghan tribesmen so they would hate us less" - if cost were no object.

But that is not where America is today.

And rejecting cuts in one area because other excesses exist elsewhere isn't good thinking.
And a lot of our sacred cows on spending have to be looked at and nothing put off the table:

1. Free housing, food, school, medical care for illegals and their anchor babies? Not excusable on grounds "some judges who thought we had money to burn ordered it."

2. Cost is no object criminal trials. Some people are saying the cost of trying Jared Laughner, seen by dozens of witnesses inn the act, plus his decades of appeals pending, "could top 20 million."
To which I say, WHY???

3. 56 billion a year for Homeland Security.

4. 3 billion for free dental care for prisoners.
WHY??? (Spare me the old, 'many judges who thought we had unlimited money to burn in America ordered it so)

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | February 14, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: tracymohr | February 14, 2011 4:06 PM

Seriously, Ms. Rubin - are you being paid by Bill Kristol, because it seems that every post mentions him in some direct or indirect way.
_______________________________

Well, his lobby just sent Jennifer on a junket to Israel, and one doubts he did it because he thought Jennifer needed a holiday.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 14, 2011 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Tell me again why Warren Buffet receives a monthly Social Security check from the gov't?

Posted by: aardunza | February 14, 2011 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer,

If you're opposed to spending money on deeply flawed projects, then here's food for thought:

He canceled 20 major systems in 2009 totaling $300 billion -- including important programs such as the F-22 Raptor and the Army's Future Combat Systems."

It's no secret that the F-22 is regarded as a lemon. Gates doesn't want it, nor does the air force.

“The Raptor is a horrible failure on almost every one of those criteria,”

http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=00197

"Other vital replacement systems, such as the Navy's CG(X) cruiser and the LCC Command Ship, were delayed or targeted for cancellation by last year's Quadrennial Defense Review."

That's because neither is vital.

The Navy's CG(X) cruiser has had serious developmental problems.

The LCC Command Ship has been deemed to be tactically redundant and unnecessary.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 14, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Appeasement of dictators, betrayal of allies, equivocation on most issues, spending America into insolvency, gutting defense...can Obama do any more damage to this great country?

Yes he can.

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | February 15, 2011 4:33 AM | Report abuse

This entire post is premised on a lie: that Obama is cutting the Pentagon budget. In reality, the White House's 2012 budget proposes _increasing_ military spending by $22 billion: http://bit.ly/dSrasA

Facts are such pesky damned things aren't they?

Posted by: spacebunny | February 19, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company