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Korb on Defense Cuts

8:55 AM, Apr 14, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The Center for American Progress's Lawrence Korb emails the following response to this post by Jamie Fly:

In Jamie Fly's post "Dems to Gates: Cut Deeper" he presents a distorted version of what me and my co-authors presented in our "Building a Military for the 21st Century" report. His post leaves a false impression of what the Center for American Progress has recommended about the size and distribution of the defense budget. These distortions fall into three areas.

First, we did not call for reducing the size of the defense budget. Our analysis assumed that the baseline would remain level in real terms. After 10 years of real growth this seemed reasonable, and it is essentially the position Gates took on April 6, 2009.

Second, we did not recommend canceling the entire missile defense program. Rather, we said that four of the most troubled programs in the Missile Defense Agency (the Airborne Laser, the Multiple Kill Vehicle, the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System) should be canceled. We also argued that the deployment of the ground-based missile defense system should be halted until it proves itself in realistic operational tests. Gates himself cancelled two of the four programs and halted the deployment of the ground-based missiles in California and Alaska. Moreover, we estimated that our plan would save $13.1 billion over the next four years; Gates' plan would save about $7 billion. Finally, the author who we cite about deploying an unproven system against a threat that does not exist, to protect countries that have not asked to be protected, was a former Director of Test and Evaluation in the Department of Defense, the person responsible for determining whether a system is "proven."

Third, Mr. Fly takes an article from Politico out of context. The study cited in Politico is based upon a report of a Task Force convened by Foreign Policy in Focus, of the Institute for Policy Studies, not the Center for American Progress. This task force, of which I was the co-chair, demonstrated that keeping national missile defense in a research mode until it has been adequately tested would free up funds for items which Secretary of Defense Gates said did not receive adequate funding in the FY2009 budget proposed by the Bush administration, for example, fully funding the State Department's stabilization and reconstruction program, or adding needed positions in the foreign service. The report does not recommend canceling missile defense altogether.

Similarly, the report does not do away with submarines. It recommends extending the life of the existing Los Angeles class submarines for five years, and converting the Ohio-class submarines, which are no longer needed to carry ballistic missiles, to attack submarines. The funds saved from doing that, as opposed to building two Virginia-class submarines per year could be used to buy more ships for the Coast Guard, whose total budget in FY 2009 was less than what the Department of Defense spent on missile defense.

Jamie Fly responds:

According to Mr. Korb, the Center for American Progress (CAP) does not support reducing the size of the defense budget. He might want to make sure the memo gets to his colleagues at CAP who produce the "Progress Report" who called the defense budget "bloated" and said Secretary Gates "Could Have Gone Further." Mr. Korb writes that he (and CAP) support a defense budget that "would remain level in real terms," or, as he put it in an April 9 article on CAP's website, "What the secretary of defense has proposed is an action plan to begin to bring defense spending under control." If keeping pace with inflation is just the beginning, what level of defense spending will CAP recommend the Obama Administration propose for Fiscal Year 2011?