Obama to "cut" either 6% or 0% from military budget
In yesterday's speech, President Obama publicly unveiled elements of the strategy that his administration has quietly been pursuing for some time:
- Shifting its #1 priority to threatening China, including a major naval build-up (the Navy got the lion's share of extra procurement funds in recent years) and new bases;
- JSOC's global "targeted killing" program (under JSOC command in Afghanistan and Somalia, and CIA command in at least 13 more countries);
- Regime Change 2.0, as in Libya, with more reliance on NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council and a well-hidden US role;
- Further small reductions in redundant nuclear weapons (the US will never need to destroy Hiroshima 200,000 times over).
Obama talked about a $450 billion "cut" in projected military spending over the next decade, and about what hawks have called the "doomsday" scenario of an additional $500 billion cut if Congress's debt reduction law takes effect. Obviously a trillion dollar cut over 10 years is only a cut of $100 billion per year.
Each of these "cuts" has been on the table for some time, and Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives has analyzed both of them. Conetta was part of Barney Frank and the Congressional Progressive Caucus's "Sustainable Defense Task Force" in 2010, which proposed a real 25% cut in military spending.
Conetta concludes that the smaller "cut" would only roll US military spending back to its 2008 level, while the larger one would roll it back to its 2007 level. The former would leave overall military spending for the next ten years at about the same level as the past 10 years, while the larger "cut" would amount to a 6% reduction. He contrasts this with the 24% military spending cut from the 1980s to the 1990s.
Conetta's papers are short, easy to understand and include helpful figures and tables. Here's his analysis of a "cut" in the order of Obama's more "modest" proposal: http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1104bm49.pdf
And here's his analysis of the "doomsday" scenario, cutting spending back to its 2007 level: http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1110bm50.pdf
Politically, I think we can draw some encouragement from the fact that Obama feels obliged to present what may not be a real cut at all as a major cut-back in military spending. For all the hype around attacks from Republicans, he knows that his reelection depends on convincing the people who voted for him in 2008 that he's at least trying to do what they wanted him to do, and that includes ending America's wars and aggressive military posture and cutting its unsustainable military budget. We must leverage Obama's vulnerability in an election year and keep up the pressure!