Defense & National Security

Missing from the debates: The coming defense disaster

Missing from the debates: The coming defense disaster
Photo credit: Staff Sgt Samuel Bendet

During Tuesday night’s debate, President Barack Obama got in a dig at challenger Mitt Romney for Romney’s promise to increase U.S. defense resources with “$2 trillion on additional military programs even though the military’s not asking for them.”

As in his first debate, thought, Obama avoided acknowledging a more pressing matter: the clock ticking down to Jan. 2, 2013, when the military will lose more than a half-trillion dollars in its budget that it very much wants and needs.

When Romney brought up the coming budget sequester during the first presidential debate in Denver, calling military cuts “devastating” and vowing to restore funding if he was elected, Obama did not even bother to respond to the charge. When Paul Ryan tried to pin down Joe Biden on sequestration during the vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky., Biden debuted his instantly famous “that’s malarkey” quip, telling Ryan that “not a single thing he said is accurate.”

When the issue came up again for Biden, he noted first that Congress had voted for the cuts as part of a “debt deal,” and implied, incorrectly, that the military wanted the cuts.

“Look, the military says, we need a smaller, leaner Army. We need more special forces,” Biden said.

Though the Pentagon did slim down the defense budget by $487 billion last year at the request of the White House, calling the cuts difficult but doable, top military brass has made clear they do not want the sequester under any circumstances. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters in a briefing last month that he would take “take whatever the hell deal” Congress can make now to avoid the sequester.

Though the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a number of plans that would pay for the sequester by cutting into entitlement spending or by scaling back the bloated federal civilian workforce through attrition, the White House has threatened a veto on all of them for failing to increase revenues at the same time. And the Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass any alternative plan to bypass sequestration.

The greatest clue that Obama and the Democrats were no longer trying to stop the cuts, despite earlier rhetoric, came with the September release of the 2012 Democratic Platform, which described the cuts as a tough necessity.

“In our current fiscal environment, we must also make tough budgetary decisions across the board — and that includes within the defense budget,” the platform reads. ” … The administration has worked with Congress to make these decisions, which has been a strategy-driven process.”

Never mind that the cuts are expected to obliterate 1.1 million jobs in 2013 alone, increase unemployment by 1.5 percentage points, and push some cities in economic recovery back into a recession.

The White House position has increasingly been to remain silent about the cuts, at least until after the election.

After the debate, Aerospace Industries Association president Marion Blakey said it was a shame that the “800-pound gorilla in the room” had gone unaddressed.

“Both campaigns have public positions on these issues – this debate was the perfect opportunity to contrast the two positions and offer the American people a choice,” she said in a statement. “Regardless of the winner in November’s election, if sequestration isn’t fixed, American citizens will be on the losing end of this poorly-conceived idea.”

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) spent Wednesday touring Ohio defense companies with a Democratic House Armed Services Committee colleague, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (R-Calif.)

Turner’s spokesman, Thomas Crosson, told Human Events that inaction and lack of communication on sequestration was clearly hurting the companies, even before the cuts were taken.

“Basically, that the uncertainty is continuing, it’s palpable,” Crosson said. “And it’s affecting them.”

Crosson said Turner was dismayed at the president’s repeated failure to address sequestration in a meaningful way.

“It’s certainly sad to us that the president is not going to provide leadership on this,” he said. “That’s the status quo and it’s time to act. (Obama) is the commander-in-chief and he cannot continue to lead from behind.”

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