President Obama’s strategy for obtaining deep cuts in Pentagon weapons buying has emerged: squeeze the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to pick up more war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, forcing them to forego new planes, ships and vehicles.
Obama’s 2010 budget outline now being debated in Congress provides $130 billion to fund the two wars. But that is $11 billion less than this year at a time when 17,000 new troops are moving to Afghanistan and when savings from a phased withdrawal from Iraq are unclear.
Added to this scenario is the fact that 2010 will be the last year of a separate war budget, or supplemental, as it is known. So the four branches will have to absorb even more war costs in the so-called “out years.”
An analysis by Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee reveals the four military branches will be forced to make up a $141 billion shortfall over two years. The White House needs to milk the military to help offset soaring domestic spending that will create trillion-dollar annual deficits.
The crunch can only have one result: deep cuts in programs. It is why Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now engaged in intense negotiations with the top brass on the 2010 budget before he unveils the carnage.
“They are really setting the stage to drop the hammer in 2011 and 2012,” said James Jay Carafano, a military analyst at the Heritage Foundation. “And at the same time what they’re trying to do is basically come up with the rhetoric to just disguise this as just good government.”
The military will eventually suffer combat readiness problems as it did under Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who both inflicted deep wounds in defense spending.
Carafano told HUMAN EVENTS that as the bills for Afghanistan mount, the Obama plan is to shift the cost to the basic defense budget, and not go to Congress for supplemental funds.
“This will accelerate the process of undercutting military readiness,” he said. “It’s kind of insidious rot. If we have eight years of this, by the time the next administration comes up, the military will just be on its back. Or there will be a new war in the meantime, and you’ll see it in casualties and other problems.”
Internal Senate Republican documents obtained by HUMAN EVENTS projects Obama will shortchange defense by $1.3 trillion over 10 years because it will fall well below the 4 percent of gross domestic product coveted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Obama’s 2010 base defense budget — that is the spending level absent programs in other departments — is $534 billion. That is a 4% increase over 2009, but includes war spending not in previous budgets. It is $26 billion below 4% of GDP, according to the Senate analysis.
Gates’ task is so sensitive he has placed a gag order on virtually every senior person inside the Pentagon. Leak any details and you risk the wrath of Gates, who already has fired his Joint Chiefs chairman (Peter Pace) and his Air Force chief (T. Michael Moseley).
The budget shrinking comes at a particularly bad time. The services need to replace equipment worn out by the war on terror. Gag order or not, to get the kind of reductions Gates or Obama seek, the services will have to cough up cherished projects such as the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, the Army’s battlefield Future Combat System and the Navy’s destroyers and frigates.
A defense official told HUMAN EVENTS that Gates is looking at reducing the Navy’s carrier battle groups from 11 to 10, meaning he could then reduce production of aircraft carriers and other combat ships. The Air Force wants 243 F-22s, but likely will get something in the range of 187 to 203. Gates’ staff is also targeting the Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter and may decide to cancel the CSAR-X. And, in another blow to the Air Force, Gates may further delay buying a new aerial refueling jet.
Gates’ budget exercise is so all-consuming he cancelled a planned NATO trip. His spokesman will not say when all this pending decision-making will result in a 2010 budget to Capitol Hill.
“There is a lot here, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it took some additional time,” said Geoff Morrell.
The projected cuts are already having an effect on U.S. military posture. Obama plans deep reductions in missile defense spending. Her may cancel George W. Bush’s plan to put ground-launchers in Eastern Europe to thwart an attack by Iran.
Gates told Fox News Sunday the Pentagon will not try to shoot down a North Korean missile that the communist regime says will put a communications satellite in space. Military analysts say the launch is a smoke screen for developing a long-range missile that could hit its neighbors or the U.S.
How can you cut missile defense if the world sees how well it works against renegade North Korea?