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Republicans Mislead Their Base with Handwringing over Sequester Defense Cuts

March 4, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Over the last decade the Republican Party put militarism before limited government. The Bush administration foolishly invaded Iraq. Presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney sounded even more extreme. GOP politicians denounced the coming budget sequester for reducing military as well as domestic outlays.

However, conservative Republicans are beginning to acknowledge that the Defense Department, too, wastes money. And that the U.S. must take drastic steps to reign in government spending, deficits, and debt. Explained Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): “Fiscal questions trump defense in a way they never would have after 9/11.”

No doubt, the sequester is a blunt, inefficient, arbitrary, even stupid way to cut outlays. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel complained of the consequences “when managers are not given the flexibility and the opportunity and the tools to manage, with complete uncertainty as to what’s ahead.”

However, the results need not be disastrous, as some Pentagon officials claim. Simply allowing the Pentagon to transfer money among accounts would moderate the impact.

Moreover, the Defense Department is playing the usual Washington game of threatening to make ostentatiously unpopular reductions. Noted columnist George F. Will: “the Navy is saying it cannot find cuts to programs or deployments less essential than the [aircraft carrier USS] Truman deployment. The Navy’s participation in the political campaign to pressure Congress into unraveling the sequester is crude, obvious and shameful, and it should earn the Navy’s budget especially skeptical scrutiny by Congress.”

Despite the despairing rhetoric of Republican hardliners, the sequester is but a scalpel when a meat-ax is required.”

Much money could be saved through better management, which would be warranted with or without the ongoing budget crisis. It is a scandal that the Pentagon’s books long have been essentially impossible to audit.

However, the far greater problem is over-ambitious DOD objectives. Defense is a core constitutional responsibility for the federal government, but that means protecting America, not the rest of the globe.

Congress should rethink American foreign policy. And then reduce outlays accordingly. Secretary Hagel understands, explaining that “The current strategy could not be met with the significantly diminished resources that sequester would impose,” meaning that the Defense Department would “need to revise” its approach.

The Pentagon budget is the price of America’s foreign policy. If Washington hopes to run the world, it must maintain a large and expensive military. That is why the U.S. accounts for close to half of the globe’s military outlays. In real terms Washington has been spending more …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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