As the implementation of sequestration rapidly approaches, it is becoming increasingly apparent that national security will be the most severely—and most immediately-- damaged sector. Rather than assisting the nation’s budget crisis, however, these cuts may actually cause further harm, as the ripple effect to contractors, subcontractors, and merchants catering to military families spreads. Virginia, California, Maryland and Texas will be the most severely affected, but every state will take a severe hit.
Ironically, the only type of federal spending that actually helped bring an end to the Great Depression of the 1930s—the production of arms to defend the nation from the probable conflicts with Germany and Japan—is the portion of the budget that will now suffer the most as America struggles to recover from the Great Recession.
Representing only 17% of the national budget, the Department of Defense (DoD) will absorb almost 50% of the cuts. Within the decade, a half trillion dollars will be withdrawn from the armed services, which, since 1990, have already been critically reduced. The Navy is back to levels not seen since the end of the First World War. The Army, which has lost 18 of its ten divisions, is suffering from personnel and equipment exhausted from repeated conflicts in the Middle East, as is the Marine Corps. Air Force pilots fly planes in some cases as old as their grandfathers, and purchases of new craft are being targeted by President Obama and Senate Democrats.
The impact will begin in late April, as almost every DoD civilian employee—800,000 strong—will be furloughed one day each week for 22 weeks, at least until the end of the fiscal period on September 30. In most cases, they will not be eligible for unemployment benefits to make up the difference. Ironically, neither most political appointees nor 50,000 foreigner employees will be affected.
The move, expected to save $4.5 billion, will directly affect training, and the maintenance of crucial equipment such as ships, planes, bases, and essential services to military families. According to some sources, 60% of army and Marine brigades may be rendered ineffective within a year.
Inexplicably, the Department of Defense has issued a bizarre memo forbidding furloughed employees from volunteering or working from home on their unpaid days off, leaving observers to question whether the move is actually intended to save funds or whether it is part of the White House’s long-standing goal of decreasing American military presence throughout the globe, especially coming at the same time as President Obama’s proposal for a near unilateral nuclear arms reduction.
The timing could not be worse. China’s military might in both conventional and nuclear arms rapidly approaches our own. It has engaged in belligerence not seen in the Pacific since Tokyo’s defeat in 1945. In Europe, Russia has renewed the cold war, sending nuclear-equipped bombers and submarines to patrol off our West and Gulf Coasts. Iran and North Korea are developing powerful missile and nuclear arsenals. As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, as it has already from Iraq, and concentrates its fight against terrorism mostly on drone attacks against individual leaders, the Taliban and al Qaeda are returning to positions of power. Already, Egypt, a formerly pro-American bastion, has come under their sway.
While funds crucial for defense are slashed, the prospects for continued funding of programs that constitute an utter waste of taxpayer funds remain strong. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry favors, spent $27 million to increase foreign pottery sales. American tax dollars, incredibly, are used to fund Russian nuclear scientists. A New Hampshire brewery received $750,000 to expand and improve. A beef jerky project cost $639,884. A private company got $505,000 to improve facilities for pet shampoo. Federal funds were used by the state of Alabama to promote its “watermelon queen.” These abuses were outlined by Senator Coburn.
Sequestration, which was originally suggested by the Obama Administration, is apparently being used to implement its proposals to diminish the United States military, rather than as a true cost saving vehicle.