Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta dumped the issue of budget cuts back where it belonged, in Congress’ lap, after receiving harsh criticism to his plans to steeply cut military manpower this week. Panetta told lawmakers critical of his plans to reduce the size of the Army and Marine Corps that he was playing within the bounds of the rules they set when Congress abrogated their responsibility to budget the DoD in keeping with the requirements of the National Security Strategy. Last year, when Congress failed create a budget they created a super-committee to resolve the issue instead. They also created automatic budget cuts should the super-committee fail, which of course it did.
The most telling and hypocritical response to Panetta’s budget plans was made by Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe who told him that Congress wouldn’t go along with recommended base closings because of the upfront costs of base closures and that the bases were needed. The obvious question is, “Needed by whom?” The most likely answer is needed by Inhofe’s constituents who make a living off bases.
Travis Sharp, a fellow at the Center for New American Security, made the weakest argument for sustaining the current force complaining that the 100,000 Marines and soldiers to be let go would be released into a high-unemployment environment, and laughably exclaimed, “In an election year!”
You’ve read it here before but you need to hear it again. The nation’s defense manpower, equipment and infrastructure should be based on current and anticipated threats to our national security...period. That means manpower, equipment, training, infrastructure, research and development have nothing to do with keeping elected officials in office or their constituents employed, which is looking more and more like the same thing.
That the DoD can meet current and rising operational challenges on a reduced budget is self-evident, and with the end of the war in Iraq and anticipated withdraw from Afghanistan there will be some necessary right-sizing of the forces, but cuts, real cuts, need to come from Washington based on need and not want. Congress members want bases in their states and districts, they want research, development and construction of defense projects in their districts and they want to keep their friends who make billions off of the DoD employed, but all of those wants pale in the face of the need to defend the country’s interests.
Ironically, it was Inhofe who summed it up best, “This is supposed to be our number one concern up here, defending our country.”
Panetta has been getting all of the heat for the proposed cuts but it rightfully belongs on Congress. They have very few enumerated responsibilities and one of them is to provide for the common defense which they have failed to do.
Panetta is just playing, albeit craftily, the cards he was dealt by those we elected and have failed to discharge their duties.