The Obama Administration Thinks Military Spending Cuts Is A Winning Issue This Year Because…
There are five reasons why it was virtually inevitable the White House is making military spending an issue this year. The Pentagon Has Become Increasingly Unpopular. After foreign aid and NASA, military spending is the area of the federal budget that has the least amount of public support. Many national polls conducted over the past year show that more than half the country thinks that reductions in defense spending are warranted. The Obama administration could not possibly fail to notice that, while the generality of “a strong defense” continues to be popular, there is a growing feeling that it can be provided at a much lower cost.
The President’s Focus On The Deficit Made A Close Look At The Pentagon Impossible To Avoid.
This is simple math more than complex politics. The political difficulties with reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and increases in taxes, plus the limited amount of spending (at least by federal standards) in annual nondefense appropriations meant that there was no place else for the White House to turn for deficit reductions but to national security programs.
The GOP Is Already On Record In Favor Of Cutting Military Spending.
No matter how often congressional Republicans now try to come up with alternatives that would eliminate or mitigate the national security “sequester” that was triggered when the anything-but-super committee failed in late November to agree on a deficit reduction plan, the fact remains that they first agreed to throw the Pentagon under the budget bus when they voted for the Budget Control Act in early August. That allows the White House to claim bi-partisan support for Pentagon reductions.
There Is Ample Hi-Level GOP Expert Opinion That Pentagon Spending Can Be Cut Without Sacrificing National Security.
A number of highly respected Republican military experts are on record with ideas about how the Pentagon can and should be cut. This includes Colin Powell, Robert Gates, Dov Zakheim and even Donald Rumsfeld, all of who have all offered specific plans for cutting one or more parts of the military budget. In fact, Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Dick Cheney was secretary of defense when Ronald Reagan reduced the DOD budget by 25 percent. The Obama White House knows it can use all these to validate its claim that the reductions can be done safely. (NOTE: Quotes from Reagan, Cheney and Powell on this subject should be expected in the State of the Union Address.)
The War In Afghanistan Is Increasingly Unpopular.
The polls indicate an overwhelming preference for reducing or eliminating the spending associated with activities in Afghanistan rather than on virtually any domestic activity. None of this should be a surprise: The military contracting community has been reading these same tealeaves for months. Indeed, the Aerospace Industry Association’s analysis following the super committee’s failure that highlighted the job losses associated with the sequester cuts has to be seen at least in part as an attempt to deal with the same factors that is motivating the Obama administration.
A Continuing Resolution For 2013 Is Now Even More Likely
Not only are the Obama administration’s $450 billion-over-10-years military spending cuts not likely to be enacted before the 2012 election, but no significant deficit reductions of any kind should be expected to be enacted this year. The witches’ brew of hyper-partisan politics, the 2012 election, the influence within the GOP of its tea party wing and the narrow majorities in the House and Senate will combine this year to do what they did in 2011: Make a deal on any aspect of the budget impossible to achieve. More energy and effort will be expended this year on avoiding, delaying, or reducing the sequester’s military spending cuts than in developing an agreement on any additional Pentagon reductions. In addition, given the narrow majorities in both houses, the spending reductions that were outlined by Pentagon officials today will provide the representatives and senators from the congressional districts and states that would be harmed with ample opportunities to make life miserable for the Democratic and Republican leaders. As a result, a fiscal 2013 Department of Defense appropriation is now even less likely than it was before, and it wasn’t that likely to begin with. A continuing resolution that keeps Pentagon spending at or near current levels and keeps existing policy in place is the most likely outcome until at least a lame duck session.
Contractors Should Be Most Concerned About 2013 And Beyond
The fact that the Obama administration’s proposed Pentagon spending reductions are not likely to be enacted in 2012 should bring little comfort to the contracting community. Even if they’re not put in place this year, reducing the military budget from current baseline levels will be hotly debated this year and be a campaign issue. This is likely to change the budget debate that has occurred since at least 2001 from how much should military spending rise to which reductions are most acceptable. That’s a significant change. Without an external shock that alters this outlook such as a terrorist attack or new overseas contingency, this changed debate will last at least until a significant deficit reduction plan is adopted, and, regardless of who gets elected and which political party controls each house of Congress, it will make the Pentagon as much a part of that discussion as Medicare and Medicaid.
By Stan Collender