Listening to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speak to the media on February 6 made me think that he is invested in the doomsday business.
Speaking about the doom and gloom that will fall upon the US Military if automatic spending cuts are kicked into gear on March 1, Panetta is trying frantically to find a person, any person, which will listen to his dire warning.
Furloughed workers, reduced combat readiness, shrunken naval operations, cuts to Air Force flying hours are all being proposed if the dreaded "sequester" takes place. Republican members of Congress, who have for years championed budget cuts as the way to prosperity, is now trying to make the grand argument that budget cuts will be "job killing."
Defense spending is now well over $700 billion a year. This is six times more than the next big spender on Military operations, China. In the sequester deal, broker between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner in 2011, the Pentagon would be hit with $500 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. Panetta told the media:
There are no good options to deal with the situation.
No, there are no good options to deal with the budget ax that is coming to the defense budget. But the Military is going to have to deal with, because the budget ax is coming. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to a close, the defense budget will have to be looked at to find savings. Just like Medicare and Social Security will need to be reformed to work more efficiently, the Military will have to be under the same microscope.
If we are to be serious about are financial means, then we cannot take Military spending off the table. It is as much a driver of the debt as Medicare is. If it makes us feel any better, we are not the only country facing the red in defense. Russia is staring down a $4 billion hole in defense spending itself and may have to cut programs. So we are not alone.
But we have to get real about defense spending. Maybe not the $500 billion in sequester cuts. But a 20 to 30 percent reduction in defense spending is the responsible thing to do. Just like other government departments, the Military must also learn the money spigot is slowing to a trickle.
The budget ax is coming to the Military. Sooner or later.