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Decline Is a Choice

12:34 PM, Aug 1, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Here’s the situation with respect to defense spending, which Speaker Boehner fought for yesterday, with some (very limited) success:

Barack Obama

♦ FY12: Freeze enacted at $530B, based on FY11. That's $13B below the House appropriations level, and $23B below the Ryan budget, which (incidentally) was the same as Obama’s original budget.

Could have been worse—but to be cutting defense for next year by 4 percent from an Obama budget proposal that Robert Gates thought barely tolerable isn’t good.

♦ First tranche of long-term cuts: Continues the freeze, adding up to about $350B in cuts over the ten-year period.  

This is a very bad outcome for modernization, force size, and training. America will not be able to meet its current commitments.

♦ Second tranche of $1.2 to $1.5B, with a sequestration "forcing mechanism" to make everybody accept whatever the evenly split bipartisan committee recommends. The sequestration is 50-50 between security and domestic: it is between the Defense Department and a few smaller security accounts on one side, and Medicare and domestic discretionary on the other.

It's hard to see what incentive there is for the committee to recommend anything very different from the default 50-50 split now enshrined in sequestration—in which case the defense budget is going to have to eat another $500-600B.

Three stark conclusions:

1. If this deal governs policy for the next decade, it will be hard for the U.S. to remain the sole superpower.

2. This is the best day the Chinese have ever had.

3. This deal embodies a vision of America in decline.

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