Follow us on social

2023-01-07t045221z_1856091750_mt1usatoday19739411_rtrmadp_3_jan-6-2023-washington-dc-usa-matt-gaetz-r-fla-left-scaled

Hawks blow a lot of hot air over proposed budget cuts

Usual suspects wrongly claim that any DoD reductions in Rep. Kevin McCarthy's speakership deal would harm national security.

Analysis | Military Industrial Complex

Writing for the Washington Post on Monday, Jennifer Rubin charged that the potential Freedom Caucus proposal to freeze federal spending at 2022 levels, which, if implemented across the board, could wipe out $75 to $100 billion in increased Pentagon spending included in the recent budget bill, could have "serious national security ramifications."




She then quoted American Enterprise Institute budget hawk Mackenzie Eaglen, who said such a proposal “makes only authoritarians, despots and dictators smile,” adding, “it completely ignores the troops and is entirely divorced from strategic thought or the many and varied threats the country faces.”




Across-the-board cuts are never the best way to reduce government spending.  They mean cutting effective and wasteful programs in the same proportions instead of making smart choices about what works and what doesn’t. But the idea of cutting up to $100 billion or more from the Pentagon, one way or another, should be up for discussion.




And the idea that dictators worldwide are basing their decisions on whether the Pentagon budget is an enormous $750 billion or an obscenely enormous $850-plus billion is ludicrous. What counts is having a clear strategy and a wilingness to carry it out, not how many dollars one can spend (or, too often, waste).




The $858 billion for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy that President Biden signed off on last month is one of the highest levels ever — far higher than at the height of the Korean or Vietnam Wars or the peak years of the Cold War. And contrary to popular belief, most of those funds do not go to the troops. More than half of Pentagon outlays go to private weapons firms that have a mixed record of delivering effective defense systems at reasonable prices, to put it mildly.




The top five contractors alone will split between $150 and $200 billion if the current budget holds, even as they pay their CEOs $20 million or more per year and engage in billions in stock buybacks to boost their share prices. These expenditures are perfectly designed to enrich arms companies and their shareholders, but they have nothing to do with defending the country.




But back to the $100 billion question. The Congressional Budget Office released a study in late 2021 that outlined three options for saving over $1 trillion in Pentagon spending over the next ten years without damaging our defense capabilities. All three options involved cutting the size of the armed forces, avoiding large boots-on-the-ground wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, and relying on allies to do more in their own defense.




The CBO recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg of what could be cut under a more restrained, realistic approach to defense. The current National Defense Strategy (NDS), released late last year, is an object lesson on how not to make choices among competing priorities. Major commitments included in the NDS include being able to win a war against Russia or China; defeating Iran or North Korea in a regional conflict; and continuing to sustain a global war on terrorism that includes military operations in at least 85 countries, according to an analysis by the Costs of War Project at Brown University.




A strategy that forswears sending large numbers of troops into regional wars, takes a more realistic view of the military threats posed by Russia and China, relies more on allies, and rolls back the Pentagon’s dangerous and unnecessary nuclear weapons buildup could save sums well beyond the $100 billion per year set out in the CBO’s illustrative options.




And these strategic shifts don’t even account for what could be saved by streamlining the Pentagon by taking measures to reduce price gouging and cost overruns by weapons firms, or reducing the Pentagon’s cadre of over half a million private contractors, many of whom perform redundant tasks at prices higher than it would cost to do the same work with civilian government employees.




By all means we should debate how the federal budget should be crafted at this chaotic political moment. But we should not assume that there is no room to trim the Pentagon budget. Doing it correctly would not only make us safer, it would free up funds to address other urgent national priorities.


Jan 6, 2023; Washington, DC, USA; Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. (Left) and Kevin McCarthy (far right) during the House of Representatives session to elect a Speaker of the House on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, trying to elect a Speaker of the House. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAYNews 118th Session Of Congress Begins
Analysis | Military Industrial Complex
Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks

Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks

QiOSK

Ukraine would consider inviting Russian officials to a peace summit to discuss Kyiv’s proposal for a negotiated end to the war, according to Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff.


“There can be a situation in which we together invite representatives of the Russian Federation, where they will be presented with the plan in case whoever is representing the aggressor country at that time will want to genuinely end this war and return to a just peace,” Yermak said over the weekend, noting that one more round of talks without Russia will first be held in Switzerland.

keep readingShow less
Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war
Janet Yellen, United States Secretary of the Treasury. (Reuters)

Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war

QiOSK

On Tuesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen strongly endorsed efforts to tap frozen Russian central bank assets in order to continue to fund Ukraine.

“There is a strong international law, economic and moral case for moving forward,” with giving the assets, which were frozen by international sanctions following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, to Kyiv, she said to reporters before a G7 meeting in San Paulo.

keep readingShow less
Will Michigan ‘uncommitted’ disaster wake Biden up on Gaza?

Activist Layla Elabed speaks during an uncommitted vote election night gathering as Democrats and Republicans hold their Michigan presidential primary election, in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Will Michigan ‘uncommitted’ disaster wake Biden up on Gaza?

QiOSK

A protest vote in Michigan against President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza dramatically exceeded expectations Tuesday, highlighting the possibility that his stance on the conflict could cost him the presidency in November.

More than 100,000 Michiganders voted “uncommitted” in yesterday’s presidential primary, earning 13.3% of the tally with most votes counted and blasting past organizers’ goal of 10,000 protest votes. Biden won the primary handily with 81% of the total tally.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest