Declaring War on the Defense Budget

All eyes this week focused on the make-up of the “super committee” that is tasked with finding more cuts in the budget. The committee was set-up by the budget deal law recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Its purpose, as Heritage security analyst Baker Spring outlined is “to provide recommendations for deficit reduction with a goal of an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. If the committee cannot agree on specific recommendations or Congress fails to enact the recommendations that it does make, automatic spending reductions are required to meet the deficit reduction goal. These automatic cuts will be split evenly between security and non-security spending—in the discretionary account only—starting in FY 2013.” Spring fears that either any deal the super committee might achieve or the automatic cuts will be a disaster for defense. He concludes,
“[t]here should be no doubt in the minds of anyone in Congress or the public at large that the policy established by the debt ceiling law will strip the military of its ability to secure the vital interests of the United States. The law, unless it is altered or repealed, will do irreparable harm to the United States military.”
The prospects of cuts on defense looked particularly ill-timed since president Obama’s effort to substitute his personal diplomacy for “hard power” have produced little positive results. The Obama Doctrine has proved largely a bust. Everywhere the White House looks like it has foreign policy headaches.
The most troubling issue last week was Syria. Violence continues unabated. Secretary Clinton ratcheted-up the administration’s rhetoric against the regime in Damascus. Yet, the U.S. is just one of many voices, suggesting once again that the administration’s strategy in the Arab Spring remains leading from behind.
Libya doesn’t look much better. NATO operations are currently slated to end next month, but right now there looks to be no resolution in the stand-off between the rebels and the regime in Tripoli. The Canadian general commanding the NATO effort recently concluded, “no one can predict how things will unfold over the next six weeks.”
In Afghanistan, U.S. troops suffered a tragic setback. Thirty Special Forces died in a helicopter shoot down by the Taliban. Nine more soldiers died in other engagements later in the week.
While these hot spots continue to get hotter, the White House continues to treat foreign policy as a backburner issue. So the president gets a grade for last week of “C” for see you in September when maybe the president will be paying more attention to defense and foreign policy issues. Contributing Editor James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is a leading expert in defense affairs, intelligence, and strategy, military operations and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation.

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