12:20 PM, Dec 11, 2013 • By ROGER I. ZAKHEIM and THOMAS DONNELLY
A future historian would describe the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) as having a profound effect on the United States. The BCA, he would write, was a critical step toward making America into a social democracy while ensuring its decline as a global military power. He would conclude that the law transformed the U.S. government into an entitlements agency that occasionally paved a road or killed a terrorist.
The historian would also note the irony. This was not, he would observe, what the BCA’s conservative supporters intended. But their undying devotion to the law’s spending caps, its mindless “sequestration” mechanism, and its singular focus on the shrinking of the “discretionary” portion of government spending, ensured that “mandatory” programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and income support grew unchecked while the brunt of spending cuts fell on America’s armed forces. The operation was a sort-of-success – the federal deficit didn’t rise quite so rapidly – but the patient died.
Thanks to the budget deal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Patty Murray, and others, there is now a chance to write an alternative history of America’s future. To be sure, the numbers in the deal are miniscule: The deal adds $63 billion to the BCA caps for 2014 and 2015, supposedly offset over 10 years by $85 billion in savings proposals. But breaking the BCA’s chokehold on the politics of spending and saving the military from the worst of sequestration would be a critical achievement. The deal is a tiny first step, but the change of direction could be huge.
It’s a change that true fiscal hawks should embrace. For one thing, the political effect of the BCA has been to delay a much needed debate about entitlement reform. Thus, while the BCA has trimmed about $150 billion in discretionary spending through 2013, mandatory spending has risen by $200 billion. The Congress actually has less annual control over the federal budget as a result of the BCA, and the law acts as an enabler for the entitlement state.
But it’s the defense cuts – $489 billion in the baseline act, another $500 billion resulting from sequester, all piled on the hundreds of billions sliced in the first two years of the Obama presidency – that epitomize the BCA madness. The law’s supporters want it both ways: they claim the cuts are no big deal to a bloated Pentagon, but are now having a fit because the Ryan-Murray proposal reduces the amount of sequester. It cuts the cut. But cutting the cut is the least Congress should be doing on the merits. A lot more is required. But the BCA has warped the defense dialogue into a narrow debate over dollars, not America’s national security needs, or even about what level of defense spending we can afford.
The alternative history of our nation’s future should be one written by the country’s center-right political leaders, one that adds new chapters to the ongoing American story of peace, liberty, and prosperity. The Ryan-Murray deal may represent a small amount in dollars, but it’s an opportunity to get the narrative back on track for next year’s elections and particularly for the 2016 presidential contest. It’s a chance to being strengthening our national defense, and to begin to remind ourselves that providing for the common defense is the first and fundamental job of our national government.
4:25 PM, Dec 4, 2013 • By ROGER I. ZAKHEIM and THOMAS DONNELLY
House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon doesn’t look like an insurgent. The quintessential Californian – a man of Reaganesque optimism whose congressional district now includes the Gipper’s presidential library – McKeon has been a steadfast supporter of House speaker John Boehner in turbulent times. Yet, to the green-eyeshade editorialists of the Wall Street Journal, McKeon is leading a “rebellion” of defense hawks, an “act of masochism” threatening the Holy of Holies: the sequestration provision of the Budget Control Act (BCA). McKeon’s crime is that he’s hoping for a 2014 budget deal that would reduce the amount of defense sequestration by half.
Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
A new study from the Cato Institute asks the question many travelers have pondered after a pat-down gone awry: Can’t we replace the TSA? The agency’s embarrassing record of waste and mismanagement makes a compelling case.
In more than one instance, the agency has wasted tens of millions on technology that ended up being a flop. It bought hundreds of explosive-detector machines that turned out not to work outside the lab.
The pressure is on to sell to China’s military.Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By JOSEPH A. BOSCO
Next month’s meeting of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in China will feature a familiar ritual. American negotiators will face intensified pressure for Washington to lift restrictions on the sale of military and dual-use technology to China. Over time, the perennial drip-drip of Beijing’s complaints against U.S. trade discrimination in this area, bolstered by American business desires to close the trade gap, has proved effective.
6:14 PM, Oct 17, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The president will "nominate former Pentagon attorney Jeh Johnson as the next secretary of homeland security," USA Today reports.
2:01 PM, Sep 10, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Although the White House posted its annual Presidential Proclamation of National Days of Prayer and Remembrance commemorating September 11th, 2001, there is no mention of the Benghazi attacks of 2012.
3:11 PM, Jul 30, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, asked on Tuesday to respond to an ongoing back and forth between himself and fellow Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, said he was "asked a question" about national security and answered it.
9:01 PM, Jun 16, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a Sunday evening statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence Public Affairs Office released this statement, meant to clear up information on the National Security Agency’s data program.
9:19 AM, Jun 15, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Friday evening, the State Department released a joint statement from the June 10-11 "U.S.-Germany Cyber Bilateral Meeting." The meeting was held in Washington.
To be young, Muslim, and American. Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By PETER SKERRY
The Boston Marathon bombings highlighted, once again, the challenges of assimilating Muslim youth. And while the onus of accountability ought not rest exclusively on Muslim Americans, it understandably weighs most heavily on them. Indeed, any fair-minded assessment of recent events must underscore the inadequacies of Muslim-American leaders. Yet the usual criticisms are wide of the mark and fail to identify the institutional as well as intellectual weaknesses of these leaders.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:24 PM, Jun 5, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on Susan Rice's promotion, the nomination of Samantha Power to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, and Congress's investigation into the Internal Revenue Service scandal.