Our representatives in Washington have added their comments to the discussion of the federal budget crisis and today’s statement by President Barack Obama.
Senator Barbara Boxer said “President Obama has wisely chosen the path to economic growth and a balanced budget that worked so well during the Clinton presidency, which includes targeted spending cuts, wise investments, asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share and strengthening Medicare for our seniors.”
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Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, who serves as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, offered a response to the President’s speech calling for massive cuts to defense spending in the coming decade.
“Last year’s election sent a clear message to all elected officials that federal spending has grown out of control and must be reined in. Republicans have already made strides toward lowering our nation’s debt through legislation to pay for government operations for the remainder of 2011 and the Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposed by Chairman Ryan. I’m pleased that the President now seems to have internalized that message and has proposed a plan to begin that discussion in earnest,” began McKeon.
“As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I have been working to identify and eliminate wasteful spending within the Department of Defense. When we consider the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 next month in the committee, my subcommittee chairmen and I will propose billions of dollars in savings that we will then reinvest in higher national security priorities.
“I have grave concerns about the White House announcing a $400 billion cut to national security spending while our troops are fighting in three different theaters. Additionally, assigning a specific number to national security cuts prior to the completion of a comprehensive review of our military’s roles and missions seems to be putting the cart before the horse. As Secretary of Defense Gates reminded us last year, announcing specific cuts prior to actually assessing the required missions and necessary force structure is ‘math not strategy.’
“Our committee has already mandated a comprehensive review of roles and missions. We look forward to working with the Department of Defense this year as they conduct this latest assessment. I hope that the President’s support of this existing requirement will result in a thorough product being delivered to Congress. Nevertheless, the President must recognize that if you add to the Pentagon’s missions, you also have to adequately fund them. At present, the President has sent the military into Libya and Japan, without offering a plan to fund these missions.
“Holding defense below inflation is a huge problem. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen recently told our members that ‘we must not be exempt in the Defense Department from belt tightening, but in truth there is little discretionary about the security we provide our fellow citizens.’ He continued, ‘Cuts can reasonably only go so far without hollowing the force. In my view, then, this proposed budget [for fiscal years 2012 – 2016] builds on the balance we started to achieve last year and represents the best of both fiscal responsibility and sound national security.’ The President and Admiral Mullen can’t both be right,” concluded McKeon.
Chairman McKeon further encouraged the President to heed the advice of his own Defense Secretary, who has warned that slashing spending on defense could be disastrous.
· On March 31, 2011, Secretary Gates stated: “For those who are contemplating deep cuts in the defense budget, looking around the world at the kind of commitments that we have and the potential challenges that we have, I think it bears very careful consideration.”
· On February 16, 2011, Secretary Gates stated: “… I want to address the calls from some quarters for deeper cuts in defense spending to address this country’s fiscal challenges…We shrink from our global security responsibilities at our peril. Retrenchment brought about by short‑sighted cuts could well lead to costlier and more tragic consequences later, indeed as they always have in the past. Surely we should learn from our national experience since World War I that drastic reductions in the size and strength of the U.S. military make armed conflict all the more likely, with an unacceptably high cost in American blood and treasure.”
· On January 6, 2011, Secretary Gates stated: “What is important is to have a budget baseline with a steady, sustainable, and predictable rate of growth that avoids extreme peaks and valleys in defense spending that can be enormously harmful to readiness, planning and financial management…[The fiscal years 2012 – 2016 budget request] represents, in my view, the minimum level of defense spending that is necessary given the complex and unpredictable array of security challenges the United States faces around the globe—global terrorist networks, rising military powers, nuclear armed rogue states, and much, much more. “
· On November 16, 2010, Secretary Gates stated: “We are not the problem. The truth of the matter is when it comes to the deficit, the Department of Defense is not the problem. I think in terms of the specifics [the Deficit Commission] came up with, that is math not strategy.”
· On August 9, 2010, Secretary Gates stated: “…my greatest fear is that in economic tough times that people will see the defense budget as the place to solve the nation’s deficit problems, to find money for other parts of the government…And as I look around the world and see…more failed and failing states, countries that are investing heavily in their militaries…as I look at the new kinds of threats emerging from cyber to precision ballistic and cruise missiles and so on—my greatest worry is that we will do to the defense budget what we have done four times before. And that is, slash it in an effort to find some kind of a dividend to put the money someplace else. I think that would be disastrous in the world environment we see today and what we’re likely to see in the years to come.”
· On June 16, 2010, Gates testified: “I believe the current topline is the minimum needed to sustain a military at war and to protect our interests in the years to come in an ever more unstable and dangerous world.”