Sec. Panetta is now crying 'unemployment' and 'jobs' as the reason not to cut the budget of the Defense Department. Among other weapons, construction projects and programs, it could end the Lockheed Martin's F-35.
Republicans have sworn without any hesitation that they have no intention of allowing the Defense Department to suffer the 'draconian' cuts of $500B to its budget mandated by the failure of the supercommittee to find alternative cuts.
The cuts seem deliberately designed to give Congress time to undo them as they are not set to take effect until 2013. But, President Obama has staunchly threatened to veto any such cuts. Given past history this may not inspire confidence, but Sen. Harry Reid has also signaled his unwillingness to take up such legislation. Moreover newly elected conservatives actually may have more of an allegiance to cutting spending than propping up the heavily larded defense budget. Since the cuts aren't scheduled to take place until after the elections of 2012 obviously it may depend on the results of those elections.
Secretary Leon Panetta has attested to the damaging effects such cuts would have on the United States' ability to defend itself, making the US very vulnerable and giving our enemies a foothold from which to start attacking us.
Panetta's objections come in a mixed message though. Not only would these cuts have a devastating effect on defense capabiity, he is also claiming such cuts would increase unemployment by 1%. The total unemployed population is about 14 million, so this relatively small cut to the defense budget could account for 1/14 of all unemployment? If this is true, the DoD is even more bloated than I ever imagined.
The CBS Evening News reported, "A lot of folks in the defense industry could lose their jobs. The failure of the budget negotiation means that in a little over a year, across-the-board cuts in federal spending will be automatic and half of them will come from the Defense Department. ... To hear Defense Secretary Panetta tell it, automatic spending cuts would be devastating to national defense." Panetta: "It's a ship without sailors. It's a brigade without bullets. It's an air wing without enough trained pilots. It's a paper tiger." CBS added, "Across-the-board cuts would, according to the Pentagon, mean the loss of a million or more jobs in the defense industry, increasing unemployment by 1%."
A million jobs? From a small cut to the defense department? How many people work there? I'm not sure that Panetta should make his case on trying to justify the defense budget as a jobs program.
Fox News' Special Report quoted Panetta as saying, "If Congress fails to act over the next year, the department of defense will pay devastating, automatic, across-the-board cuts that will tear a seam in the nation's defense." Sen. John McCain was shown saying, "Military chiefs have said these cuts would be totally devastating. So, the President again disregarded the strong recommendations and warnings of the Secretary of Defense and the leaders of the military."
Well, he would have to have previously disregarded their strong recommendation, and to actually have already done something, in order to do it 'again' but we can't expect the grumpy old Senator to keep track of such things. Furthermore, it seems it's the supercommittee has ignored the recommendations, in failing to find an alternative to making them.
USA Today reports that the Administration is "using Congress' own leverage against it, signaling it will go through with $55 billion a year in defense cuts." Following "the supercommittee's collapse, top Republicans on the armed services committees said they would seek to undo automatic defense cuts they voted for as part of the August debt limit deal." House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) "said he will introduce a bill soon to prevent 'catastrophic damage' to national security," but White House press secretary Jay Carney "said there's 'no wiggle room' in Obama's threat to veto those attempts."
They are squawking about a drop in the bucket of $55 billion, per year to the bloated defense budget. It's hard to imagine how that would cost 1 million jobs.
The New York Times reports that "members of Congress who hope to overturn the automatic cuts may find their biggest obstacle is not President Obama...but leaders of both parties in Congress." The Times adds that the Democratic leadership has "said that absent a plan with spending cuts and new taxes...the Pentagon cuts will abide," while, "on the Republican side, the leadership also seems unenthusiastic about a messy floor fight over the automatic cuts. ... And while Republican lawmakers with strong ties to the Pentagon and the defense industry will be aggressive in asserting that the automatic cuts will harm the military, many newer conservative lawmakers are more devoted to cutting spending than to bolstering the Pentagon budget."
So in what may turn out to be an interesting switch in expected behavior it actually seems possible that (at least part of) the Republican party will be more responsible for actually allowing the cuts to take place.
Pentagon Reportedly Has Failed To Plan For Potential Cuts According to the New York Times , Panetta "has painted such an apocalyptic vision of America's national security under $500 billion in automatic defense budget cuts that Pentagon officials said Tuesday they were pushing back at Congress -- and not even planning for the spending reductions, which are to take effect in January 2013. But independent military budget analysts described the cuts, which would bring the Pentagon base budget back to 2007 levels, as agonizing but manageable. The analysts, who have close ties to the Pentagon, expressed amazement that a department that plans for every contingency was not planning for this one."
And this may be the most interesting part of all - the entrenchment of the Defense Deparment who are so assured and secure in their continued sucking of trillions of dollars of the taxpayer dollars into the military industrial complex that they haven't even bothered to enact a 'battle plan' for their reduced budget. Strategic planning is supposed to be their forte. The defense budget has doubled since 9/11. Doubled. The budget would only be scaled back to pre-war levels of 2007. So to scream that it is imposible to return to this level assumes that wars, wars and more wars are the reality of the future.
Here's an idea (h/t to Rep. Eric Cantor): if you want to start another war somewhere, how about offsetting cuts from some other part of the defense budget. Like, say, all those bases and troops in Europe that we're protecting from the Soviet Union. Or some other obsolete mandate we're still adhering to.