Post to Obama: Don't Let National Defense Decay
The Washington Post editorial board criticizes the Obama administration's dereliction of duty on defense spending:
But even assuming Congress would permit what Mr. Hagel sees as rational cuts — and that is unlikely — these wouldn’t come close to satisfying the demands of the sequester. Instead, the Defense Department would have to choose between maintaining technological sophistication or numerical strength. If it chose the former, Mr. Hagel explained, it would keep “a force that would be technologically dominant but would be much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if crises occurred at the same time in different regions of the world.” The other option would result in a larger force capable of international deployment but with aging weapons systems that rivals would have an easier time matching.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in testimony on Thursday that either way would “mark a significant departure from the missions our nation has been accustomed to being able to accomplish.”
The entire sequester, hitting defense and non-defense, was bad policy when lawmakers passed it, it was bad policy when they let it begin, and it remains bad policy. The president is right to press for the whole thing to end, along with Congress’s indefensibly short-term approach to budgeting. Political tactics may compel him for the moment not to give national security special consideration, given House Republicans’ intransigence.
But Mr. Obama ultimately can’t act as though the Defense Department’s sequester cuts are equivalent in consequence to every other item in the budget. The country’s defense is a core responsibility of the federal government, and its armed forces are critical to the nation’s ability to exert leadership, maintain alliances, defend human rights and preserve the nation’s safety.
Read the whole thing here.
The Post's concerns echo those made by the boss in his editorial this week:
In presenting his strategic review, Hagel admitted that no savings from reforms and efficiencies can make up for the shortfall in resources. He did speak of trade-offs between quantity and quality in the military and acknowledged those tradeoffs would be increasingly difficult. In fact, it’s worse than that. As the Foreign Policy Initiative explained in a staff analysis, “When it comes to national defense, quantity has a quality of its own, and reducing the Armed Forces to the point that they could no longer sustain critical operations would cripple America’s standing in the world.” As Hagel’s predecessor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, put it, we are heading to a situation in which the United States will have the smallest ground forces since 1940, the smallest fleet since 1915, and the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.
This is all utterly unnecessary and shockingly irresponsible. We have never been wealthier as a nation than we are today. We have never been technologically more advanced. The challenges we face are less daunting than those our forefathers dealt with. Our young men and women who have volunteered since 9/11 are at least the equals of the generations who have gone before. The attack on 9/11 is still fresh in mind, and the prospect of a world in which terror is rewarded, the enemies of liberty flourish, and nuclear weapons proliferate is clear enough ahead.