Last Updated:November 27 @ 11:19 am

Second term for Obama means deeper defense cuts

By Donna Cassata

WASHINGTON (AP) - One war is done, another is winding down and the calls to cut the deficit are deafening. The military, a beneficiary of robust budgets for more than a decade, is coming to grips with a new reality - fewer dollars.

The election accelerated an already shifting political dynamic that next year will pair a second-term Democratic president searching for spending cuts with tea partyers and conservatives intent on preserving lower tax rates above all else, even if it means once unheard of reductions in defense.

President Barack Obama and Congress have just a few weeks to figure out how to avert the automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs totaling $110 billion next year. Those reductions are part of the so-called fiscal cliff of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and the across-the-board cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned would be devastating to the military.

All sides are trying to come up with a deficit-cutting plan of $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Any solution that might emerge from the high-stakes negotiations before the Jan. 2 deadline likely would include some reductions in the military budget, which has nearly doubled in the last decade to half a trillion dollars. That amount doesn't include the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Projected defense spending over the next 10 years was expected to grow to $640 billion.

In the parlance of Willie Sutton, who supposedly said he robbed banks because that's where the money was, the military budget is where the dollars are for Washington negotiators.

"It is a big piggybank," said former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican who along with Democrat Erskine Bowles had recommended $4 trillion in budget cuts over a decade, including deep reductions in defense, as part of a special presidential commission in December 2010.

"If you can't get in there and start getting stuff out of there when you have a defense budget of $740 billion bucks - and the defense budget of every major country on earth, 17 of them, including Russia and China, is $540 billion combined. Who is joshing who," said Simpson. "That's madness, madness."

One possible starting point is the recommendation of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., who indicated earlier this year that he would be willing to accept additional defense cuts of $10 billion a year as part of any solution to avoid the across-the-board cuts.

"I think it's got to be all one package, and defense has to participate. Everything has to be on the table," said former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., a predecessor of Levin at the helm of Armed Services who also insisted that the rising cost of Social Security and Medicare needs to be addressed.

Nunn pointed out that former Defense Secretary Bob Gates and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said the greatest threat to national security is the nation's fiscal crisis.

In past negotiations, Congress and the White House had considered changes in the military's TRICARE health program, which costs more than $50 billion and has exploded into the biggest entitlement program for the Pentagon. Working-age military retirees have only seen small increases in their premium costs as their friends in Congress have fought any changes.

The Pentagon budget already is facing a 10-year reduction of $487 billion in projected spending, the result of the budget agreement reached by Obama and Congress in August 2011.

The days of staunch defense hawks in Congress easily turning back efforts to cut military spending are gone as war fatigue even has reached the fiercest guardians of military spending.

In September, Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees defense spending, said the United States should withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. The current timetable calls for U.S. combat troops to be out by the end of 2014.

"We're killing kids who don't need to die," Young said in an interview with the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times.

One of the most telling but little-noticed votes this past year came in the House, where a coalition of Democrats led by liberal Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., combined forces to persuade lawmakers to freeze defense spending at the current level, cutting $1.1 billion from the $608 billion bill.

The vote was 247-167, with 89 Republicans joining 158 Democrats. It was the clearest signal yet that defense dollars were no longer spared from budget cuts in a time of astronomical deficits.

"Austerity to me means spending less," Mulvaney said at the time. "Total government spending will be up this year. We're still facing a $1 trillion deficit. We need to do better to get our spending under control."

Conservatives from anti-tax leader Grover Norquist to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, have spoken openly about defense cuts. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, has rejected the oft-repeated Republican contention that defense spending means jobs.

In an interview with the Cato Institute several months ago, he talked of combating "the idea that the Defense Department is a jobs program."

John Isaacs, executive director of Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said Republicans are split on defense spending and Norquist speaks for many of Congress' tea partyers.

"I think the tide has kind of turned in some ways against defense thanks to the tea party. They're so much against any kind of spending that they don't exclude defense from that," Isaacs said.

Absent from the next Congress will be many of the protectors of the Pentagon - 18-term Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

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  1. ptbaaComment by ptbaa
    November 12, 2012 @ 8:17 am

    Get a grip people! What kind of idiots do these people think we are? Oh No, oh no, we can’t cut $1.1 billion out of $608 billion without the sky falling? Chicken Little would be so proud!

    The defense budget in FY 2000 was $295 billion. Last year in FY 2011 it was $549 billion. Now I’m not real bright, but that sounds like about an 86% increase in a dozen years. And, I must just be kidding myself to think that there could be any wast in a budget that trimmed down.

    Come on folks, can’t we find even one $50 toilet seat any more?

    Better get prepared, Amerika!

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    • ptbaaComment by ptbaa
      November 12, 2012 @ 9:54 am

      Sorry, not wast, but waste!

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  2. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    November 12, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    yeah,cut defense spending who gives a dam about our safety?as long as the moochers can keep getting there freeeeebies,and illegals can get freebies,and the democRATS can keep there voting block,who gives a dam?

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    • cowboy303Comment by cowboy303
      November 12, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

      Not even a week out of the elections and Iran is slamming Israel with missiles. All this while our president stands at the Tomb of the Unknown acting like he really cares and pulls the rug out of under the military. Hey Al-Qaeda and Iran next time you want to pull a 9/11 start on the East Coast since they voted for him not mid west.

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  3. agent007Comment by agent007
    November 12, 2012 @ 8:39 am

    Rather than talk about defense budgets as pure numbers, we ought to understand that we need to compare our military capabilities to see if they have increased or decreased from 2000 to 2011.
    I will immediately confess that I don’t have insight in the defense budgets. Just want to ask a question, do the FY 2000 and the FY 2011 numbers include the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or are the costs of those wars excluded?
    From what I have heard about the impact of impending cuts on defense, it will LOWER our military capabilities from being able to fight 2 conflicts simultaneously to only 1 conflict. That is real REDUCTION of our military power projection around the world, and a WEAKENING of the USA.
    That is a real DANGER.

    I’m not saying that we should not look to reduce costs for defense where we can. We should really look at weapon programs and decide if we are better off with slightly older technology at a fraction of the price of the latest and greatest new weapon technologies. For example, keep doing the R&D, but only build the systems once they are needed! An example of this where this principle worked very well is the Theatre Missile Defense Program, where every year a review was set up to decide whether or not they would continue just R&D and testing, or if crises around the world would warrant full time production.
    This same system could be used for the now SUPER expensive military jets programs. Costs of these systems seem to have exploded exponentially over the last decades, and instead of replacing older but still very capable jets like F16s, F14s and F15s and F18s with all the latest and greatest systems, maybe we should simply modernize those jets, and produce more of those, since they are only a fraction of the costs.
    I would rather have 10 jets like that, instead of maybe 1 of the latest and greatest, which would be overextended based on sheer lack of numbers in conflict! 1 jet can only do one thing at a time, where 10 jets could take on various missions. Most of our opponents do NOT yet have a technological equality with us anyways or lack the military training / experience. An F-16 in the hands of an Al-Quada member is no match for an American F-16 pilot!

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    • ptbaaComment by ptbaa
      November 12, 2012 @ 9:53 am


      The numbers I quoted did not include “overseas contingency operations” such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you include those the total would be over $700 billion for FY 2011.

      And, yes, we want and need the best equipped best trained military in the world as a deterrent to dictators like Barack Obama around the world.

      But, General Dwight David Eisenhower warned us over half a century ago about the dangers of the military industrial complex.

      And, surely if the defense budget increased by 86% in 12 years, we aren’t foolish enough to believe that the fraud, waste and corruption didn’t increase by at least that percentage as well, are we?

      So when we ring our hands at the thought of cutting $1.1 billion out of a $608 billion budget, it just amazes me!

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    • BobinmsComment by Bobinms
      November 12, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

      I agree ptbaa. We’ve got to quit killing our sons and daughters in these senseless wars where the people we are trying to help oppose us. Our number one problem is the debt and to solve it we have change our ways. The 2 areas with the most growth are defense and entitlements and both should contribute to debt reduction.

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  4. nickster99Comment by nickster99
    November 12, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    When you hear a lie enough times soon you start to believe it. It just happened last week!

    Thanks to all you conservatives that sat on your brains last Tuesday. Hope you have a nice 4 years of Odumbo!

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  5. JDZComment by JDZ
    November 12, 2012 @ 11:53 am

    At this point in our history, the only part of our economy and overall welfare of the country that is recognized as world class and dominant in the world is our military capability and our partnership between our defense industries and the Department of Defense. It is the only area of our economy that the federal government and big union has not screwed over and forced offshore. However, it sounds like that is about to change.

    Our economy is in the dumper and getting worse by the day, not better as liberals like to kid themselves into believing. The defense industry corporations and the thousands of companies that support the design, development, and manufacturing of military weapons and materials represent one of the largest segments of our economy and jobs for Americans. All kinds of good jobs from thousands of highly technical engineering and scientific jobs to hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs ( all military equipment is manufactured in the USA). The defense infrastructure has been in place since WWII and is actually very efficient compared to other government dominated arenas. Not only does it provide a myriad of jobs for Americans but the technology developed for advanced defense systems eventually (this is controlled for classified reasons) into commercial applications that we all enjoy.

    You cannot compare the cost of our national defense to other countries on an apple to apple basis because our labor costs are higher, the government oversight makes everything more expensive to develop, manufacture, and support. The sophistication of our national defense umbrella and overall wherewithal requires continual upgrades and new technology to stay ahead of our enemies.

    The simplistic approach of those hellbent to compromise our national defense by exorbinant cost cuts just shows their ignorance of the complexity of how our economy and national defense infrastructure is intertwined. One of the ways Reagan turned around our failing economy when he took office was to actually spend more on our military then Carter was doing.

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  6. bna42Comment by bna42
    November 12, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    The thing that amazes me is why the cuts in spending always focus on necessary expenditures such as defense, Social Security, Medicare, etc. We all recognize the money wasted on unnecessary expenditures such as overlapping government agencies that have outlived their usefulness, numerous welfare programs causing government dependence, foreign aid to many nations who would like to see us annihilated, and many other spending areas which are not in the best interest of the nation.

    When our government continues to operate year after year without a mandatory budget, when they spend over $1 trillion in deficit spending every year, and the primary spending cuts they discuss do not include any of the above expenditures, I am convinced they are NOT serious about solving any of the nation’s problems.

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    • JDZComment by JDZ
      November 12, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

      You hit the nail on the head and is one of the reasons the Republicans push back on raising taxes without any clearly defined cuts in spending relative to the streaming and reduction in the size of the federal government and the thousands of overlapping and pure “departments of bureaucracy” that suck up taxpayer funding with little, if any value added to the performance of the federal government. The Dems really resist cutting the size of government because the more government employees, the more union members to pay dictated union dues of which a significant amount is turned around into campaign funds to keep Democrats in office (the covert money laundering scheme going on across the country between big labor and Democrats).

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  7. franktchrComment by franktchr
    November 12, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    And don’t forget the 6 figured salaries paid to the so called “Czars” who are doing Obama’s work. They’re not needed, we have departments doing their work already. It is now time to hold this little man’s feet to the fire. Letters everyone–every day! Make him work! He already has put in a round of golf, so he could relax from the nauseatingly negative campaign he ran. God help us.

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  8. lokdnloadedComment by lokdnloaded
    November 12, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

    First i wish you would make this damn page easier to log in like at the top with ‘normal pages? Obama will sink half the fleet aircraft carriers first and submarines second. Then cut the airforce down to where we are back to flying prop driven planes. The military yeah screw that ar m16 kind of rifle, ak’s from his muslim friends and cut the size to about 1/3. That will just be the warm up folks as he is bound and determined to remake America in his 3rd world background image.there even our poor would be considered well off so close as many businesses as possible and sell our mineral drilling rights off to our enemies like china. The bread lines of the great depression will be normal sight on main street and those streets will have un tanks and apc’s parked on em as we are occupied by the nwo one world government of George Soros’s dreams. That’s when obama gets his bubble popped as he wants to be dictator and instead will be relegated to a pugnosed slave under sharia law. Welcome to the Amerika of the future folks. You leftist,environmentalist aclu libterds and outright card carrying commies and socialist’s aint even close to what these ******** have in store for us. Too many to feed simple solution mass murder and genocide. The United States of America is at the most dangerous crossroad and under the most sadistic tyrannical leadership it has ever faced. I truly am not sure what or if we will come out the otherside of this. Brought it on ourselves by removing god,the pledge of allegiance, parental control and responsibility. education reforms which worked to dumb down the population so even the village idiot could graduate from high school. allowed outright socialists to take over the colleges and universities of lower lesrning teaching them how to overthrow our government because we are the great evil of the world. You get my drift by now i am sure, i also am not sure if even this site will have the guts to post what i have written here

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  9. gnafuComment by gnafu
    November 12, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

    We all know that cutting back on Military is not a practical thing to do. Obama holds the “Sharp Sword of Damocles.” to the decent Congressmen/ladies throats and they yield to him. Use common sense and go back over how Americans have been intimidated and demoralized not just the past four years but say let’s start with Carter era and work forward. Look at the Crisis that have come our way. The Destruction of Society’s money. Have you never read how Communism or Marxism is sprouted – Decent, desperate People turned into jackasses and ignorant of what is happening. Pitting people against each other in a quiet way is part of a street “organizer’s” job. Look how some of the Administration is jumping ship.If I’m wrong, I stand corrected but something is brewing and it isn’t coffee.

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  10. Pingback: Cut Military Waste, Not Charitable Deductions | Libertas Found

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