The “Fiscal Cliff” and Defense Spending Cuts: Long Overdue Accountability

Secretary of Defense

It is rare that I would offer support to anything Washington proposes, but in the specific case of automatic cuts to the Defense Department, I can’t agree more.  The rhetoric in Washington is that if we, as a nation, go over the fiscal cliff, the Department of Defense as we know it will cease to exist.  If by that one means an excessively obese black hole of wasteful spending, ineptness, and bureaucracy, then I hope they are correct.  What will not happen is that the defense of our nation in any way will be imperiled as the military-industrial-complex elites would like you to believe.  In fact, we actually stand to get better accountability and more security by significantly reigning in the Department’s bankroll.  Further, perhaps the government would be less likely to commit our nation to senseless and counterproductive wars of what looks more and more like imperial crusades of no national interest.  Certainly, it will mean some lifelong government workers will need to actually get a real job and some parasitic defense contractors will have to make cuts, but it will not mean the core mission and ability of our military to “defend” the United States is decreased.  I can speak expertly on this subject as a former defense contractor, consultant for military capability development, combat veteran, and most importantly, a tax-paying civilian.

First, let me point out that the Defense Department is so large the Defense Department doesn’t even know what all assets and organizations it possesses.  Further, it considers itself so complex and large that it resists accountability by claiming an audit would be impossible.  To that defense, I would point out a couple things.  You won’t miss what you don’t know you have.  When you finally start getting auditable accountability of your assets, then we may be getting somewhere.  At that point, tens of billions of dollars still could be cut from the defense budget.

Second, the Defense Department has enjoyed too many years of literal blank checks from Congress billed to our great great grandchildren to pay back.  This massive payout has not provided a positive return on investment.  The Department of Defense, our military, is by a mind boggling degree the most sophisticated and powerful military ever to inhabit Earth.  Still though, they have found it impossible to achieve decisive gains and a clear cut victory in any of the now seemingly random wars fought over the last decade leaving trillions of dollars in debt, hundreds of thousands dead and wounded, and the world in chaos.  Specifically, radical Islamists have taken over the Middle East, Al Qaeda has gone from an organization only a few inside the intelligence community had ever heard of to a worldwide and growing phenomenon, and our once free nation has been turned into a police state.  This is not what I consider a positive contribution to any nation, much less our own.

Third, expanding on the financial aspect of the military, the war in Afghanistan has now drug on over a decade.  There is no end in sight, no strategy, and not even a sense that we need win it.  In fact, it appears the strategy is to continue to simply stay there indefinitely with no military endstate at all.  However, that would not take into account the billions of dollars of direct and indirect stimulus money this perpetual war injects into the economy.  As awful is it is to palate, the war has served as a stimulus slush fund for the economy, paying no mind of course to unpayable debt, that is beyond Congressional scrutiny or condemnation.  In fact, no elected official dare cut money and be seen as “not supporting our troops!”  In fact, pulling the plug on this endless floodgate of money is the best thing Congress could do for national security, our troops, and our economy.

Fourth, the Cold War is over and the terrorist menace that has been quite literally “created” by the U.S. government is a far cry from any real threat.  To illustrate, I would just like to point out that the likes of Osama bin Laden have been on and off CIA payrolls for literally decades.  The very same people we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were the ones we trained a decade before in Pakistan and the Balkans to fight the Soviets and the Serbs.  Moving forward, the “insurgents” we fought doggedly in Iraq were in part composed of our formerly trained freedom fighters come jihadist allies.  Then our evil extremist enemies became our “freedom fighter” allies in Libya supported by the whole of the U.S. military and NATO that then turned and killed our Ambassador.  These now “bad guys” have now become “good guys” again in Syria where our Special Forces and CIA are actively arming, training, equipping, and advising them in combat daily.  Once we off Assad and use them to clear out his air defense sites and weaken his military, we will use the excuse of something like chemical weapons (remind you of Iraq?), to invade, which will pave the way for a war with the Shia and Iran.  Once we try to put Iran back in a box and reestablish control over its oil and gas, the Sunni rebels we supported will once again become radical terrorists that will be used to justify more defense and intelligence spending, a greater police state (control and power), and more endless wars of imperial designs that benefit the few.  I hope at this point you are seeing the trend.  There is no real threat, just the one we create for political ends.  This perpetual need to create a boogieman and fear mongering to control the civilian population is a trick as old as history.  However, there is no place for it in any free Republic and must be stopped.

Fifth, and far from exhaustive or comprehensive, is the fact that the debt and deficit are critical elements of our nation’s national security.  We can no longer afford to borrow to infinity to finance wars.  Wars of imperialism broke the backs of the great European powers, particularly collapsing the British Empire, and it will no doubt do the same to America.  There is simply no need to have troops and bases in nearly every country in the world.  There is no need to borrow from China billions of dollars so we can arm to fight China.  It is insane!  Why are we borrowing from the Japanese, the Germans, and the Koreans to protect them more than fifty years after any real threat vanished?  They are independently world economic powerhouses more than capable of their own defense!  And to those that point to treaties, I say to the trashcan with them.  It is time to renegotiate them and or pull out!  It is absurd that soldiers today would be asked to fight and die for a poorly written treaty composed before most of their grandparents were born!  Going to war today over a treaty written after World War II is about as ridiculous as suggesting Vietnam was necessary because of a treaty written after the American Civil War.

Now that we have hit the wave tops about why the spending is unnecessary, one may ask why we haven’t cut the budget.  The answer is simple politics.  A contemporary example is the Navy’s aircraft carriers.  Aircraft carriers have for at least a decade or more been incredibly large, vulnerable, and extremely expensive floating liabilities.  Since the advent of more accurate anti-ship missiles and the proliferation of attack submarines, missile boats, and aircraft, the aircraft carrier is obsolete in the way the battleship was in World War II, most notably “after” the wake-up call on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor.  Further, long range, precision stand-off weapons to include stealth drones, hypersonic missiles, and submarine launched cruise missiles have made the need to use forward deployed (and vulnerable) aircraft unnecessary in military strategy.  As such, the Navy has repeatedly asked Congress to reduce the “mandated” number of carriers from eleven down to as low as seven so that the money could be recapitalized into more capable and survivable platforms.  However, Congress refuses and actually has added more money to carrier shipbuilding projects.  The reason is jobs, which equal votes.  No congressman is going to kill a ship yard or carrier port in his or her district.  As such, the entire nation is stuck with billions of dollars of wasted money, a military with an obsolete and vulnerable platform, and thousands of lives being put at risk.  Another example is the case of Joint Forces Command or JFCOM.  JFCOM in simply terms was a great idea on paper that in reality failed miserably.  It never had the authority to do what it needed to do and in the end became another bureaucratic hurdle to getting anything done.  As such, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cut JFCOM.  That was years ago and guess what, JFCOM is still employing people and operating even though it has no official mission thanks to powerful lobbyists and Virginia politicians more interested in protecting what really amounted to about a thousand contractors.  The cost to the U.S. taxpayer has been probably over a hundred million in wasted dollars.  The examples are nearly endless.  BRAC, an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, endless “studies” that lead to nothing, and innumerable mindless DoD funded commercials on the Armed Forces Network that tell you about things like how to lock a door and not walk with a cell phone top my short list!

The above real world examples outline the conundrum Congress faces in making “any” cuts to the Department of Defense.  As such, the Department has grown and grown like a beast with an insatiable appetite and Congress has been impotent to stop.  As such, the only way to get this under control will be mandatory cuts where everyone is to blame, but no one is to blame.  President Obama is keenly aware of this and honestly, has cunningly set up a political checkmate where he knows that no matter what the Congress does, he will get his cuts.  This is known as sequestration or the “fiscal cliff.”  Unfortunately, beyond the cuts to government spending, which are not enough, the cliff also comes with host of oppressive tax hikes that will utterly destroy private American wealth and further fuel Washington’s spending habits so the sum net gain will be a loss.

By Guiles Hendrik