Republicans Want To Cut Deficits But Increase Defense Spending?

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Deficit, Military, Money, Republicans

Same song. Different singers.

Reuters interviewed Republican Buck McKeon, the new chairman of the House Armed Services committee. And guess what?

From McKeon:

We’re spending less than at times in the past and we’re involved in two wars, as a percentage of our gross product. So I think, myself, I think you have to be very careful of the taxpayer dollar and I think the things the Secretary (of Defense) is pushing for with increased savings through efficiency. I support that.

But I also support a higher top line because we have underlying costs that are taking such a high percentage of our budget that we’re not going to have enough to do the R&D and do the weaponry spending to provide the wherewithal to have the defense that we need. So, you know, they cut back in missile defense. They cut back in the F-22. They cut back in the next generation bomber. All these things for the future, and we can’t wait for the future to come. We need to be prepared for it.

So, I think we need more money in defense and I think we need to do a better job spending that money.

This is what they always say. We want to spend the money wisely.

Meanwhile, they’re in favor of weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program…which is wildly over budget and years behind schedule.

From Bloomberg:

Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) — Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon’s costliest program, may see more price increases and new schedule delays of as much as three years, two government officials familiar with the matter said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to be briefed tomorrow on new cost and schedule assessments for the F-35 and other aircraft, said the officials, who requested anonymity because details aren’t public. Software, engineering and flight difficulties are greater than expected, the officials said.

The projections are based on a preliminary analysis of test and production data, the officials said. The F-35 “Technical Baseline Review” is being prepared for an in-depth examination of the $382 billion JSF program, set for Nov. 22 by the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board, the officials said.

$382 billion. For a redundant jet.

If Republicans are serious about tightening our belts, cutting the budget deficit and the overall deficit, then programs like this need to be shelved.

Tea Partiers, I’m looking at you. Want to prove you’re more than just a marketing gimmick? Take a stand on issues like this.


This entry was posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010 and is filed under Deficit, Military, Money, Republicans. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

23 Responses to “Republicans Want To Cut Deficits But Increase Defense Spending?”

  1. Trescml Says:

    I comes as no surprise that Republicans support Defense and Homeland Security and are willing to cut more in Medicare or other programs the Democrats care about. Budget cuts are for the other sides priorities and it is one of the things that both parties agree on. Can the Democrats and Tea Party form an alliance to cut defense spending? I doubt the Republican leadership in the house will allow it, but I guess it is possible.

  2. kranky kritter Says:

    Who is “they”? Buck McKeon is a “he.” You’ve quoted one guy here.

    It’s quite true that Republicans are innately pro-defense, pro security, pro-public safety as a general rule. It’s also quite true that refusing to look at defense cuts is fiscally irresponsible.

    But it’s not true that republicans speak with unanimity on this issue.

    As an independent, I am looking for both parties to show some willingness to heave their sacred cows up onto the butcher block. You may be able to show some hypocrisy of the GOP’s part by talking about defense. But as I’ve said, some Republicans actually do get this.

    I hope you don’t think pointing at the apearance of GOP hypocrisy frees you to demagogue against entitlement reform. That’s the predictable distracting argument, that we don’t have to take entitlement reform seriously because Republicans are hypocrites who won’t cut defense.

    Any sensible independent or centrist knows we have to do both, and is unwilling to be distracted from that insight onto yet another argument about which party is less hypocritical or cares more or lies less.

    As Republican Tim Pawlenty recently said. “If you look at a pie chart of federal outlays, discretionary spending being the red, non-discretionary being the blue. The blue is already over the over the half way mark and it’s growing in double digits. Anybody who comes in here and tells you they’re not going to cut anything other than waste fraud and abuse, they’re not going to touch entitlements — they’re lying to you. If you want to deal with the spending issue, in terms of total federal outlays, you got to deal with interest on the national debt, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — if you have the time I can walk you through my ideas. But that’s the truth, you got to do entitlement reform, particularly if you’re going to hold defense harmless.”

    That’s true for BOTH democrats and republicans who are afraid to cut entitlement reforms, and it’s true both for Republicans and the current President who really don’t want to cut the defense budget with re-election on the line in 2012.

    Heave it all up on the table.

  3. Justin Gardner Says:

    kranky, the chair of the House Armed Services committee speaks for the party. Of course he doesn’t speak for all of them, but he’s speaking for a majority of them by default. If it is revealed that a wide swath of GOPers don’t agree with his assessment, I will write a post about that. Trust me, I would GLADLY write a post about that.

    About pointing out one party vs. the other, you know very well I’ve said we’ve have to do it to both. The findings of the Deficit Commission that Obama appointed will be shared in December. That will serve as a good jumping off point. No doubt you’ll have Dems who will cry foul at entitlement cuts, but if Obama and the Dems are smart, they’ll say, “Okay, we’ll do this. But we have to scrap projects like the F35 and other redundant systems. Fair is fair and we need to start slicing everywhere.” We’ll see if the Repubs will be amenable to that. My gut tells me they won’t be.

  4. kranky kritter Says:

    If it is revealed that a wide swath of GOPers don’t agree with his assessment, I will write a post about that.

    Why? Because you can’t resist making it about a comparison between parties? Why not commit to noticing whoever is serious about cutting everywhere we can, regardless of party?Why always give primary notice to the most easily criticized republicans?

    Instead of publicizing and whining about liars and a-holes who you think aren’t making sense, look for and publicize those who do, without regard to party.

    That’s the challenge for independents, and centrists, and the sane. Can you meet it? Are you willing to… ?

  5. mw Says:

    “Madam President, I rise in strong support of the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Armed Services Committee, which has reviewed the program carefully, made the sensible move in restoring the almost $440 million necessary this year to continue design and development of the alternate engine, known as the F136 engine, made by General Electric Aviation.”

    Senator Patrick Leahy – Democrat – Senate Armed Services Committee

  6. blackout Says:

    This isn’t the only defense budget story to come up this week — apparently the navy needs ten more ships as well — which signals to me that a) the media are already sharpening their knives for the new leadership and b) GOP leadership (mw’s post aside, this is typically coming from the GOP) is being indiscreet enough right out of the gate to play into it. meet John Boehner: Cat herder.

    I used to think the lurching back and forth between two equally flawed and ineffective parties was amusing, but I was younger then I suppose. Now it’s sort of chilling.

  7. Tully Says:

    Yep, mw. And does anyone recall a HASC chairman of either party ever calling for less military funding? I don’t. Certainly not the outgoing current chair, Ike Skelton (D-MO), who also vociferously championed the alternate engine program, and for the very same reasons that McKeon cites. That’s the nature of all committees — band together to scream bloody murder advocate for more resources for that sector, which moves the actual scrum to the floor, where the House as a whole hashes out who actually gets what.

    The JSF problems at Lockheed should also not be conflated with the engine programs, which are functioning well. The JSF delays and cost overruns are not coming from the engine programs, as much as Lockheed would like to get that alt-engine money to cover their own cost overruns.

    Nor have our partners in the JSF project (the UK, Italy, Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark) pulled their support or funding. Apparently they don’t find it “redundant” either. I’m confused as to where that characterization comes from, unless Justin means “redundant” in the sense that the development of the B-52 after WW2 was “redundant” because we still had all those B-24′s and B-29′s.

    If you want to know how split even the defense establishment is on weapons programs, get an earful of the old-schoolers and the new generation in air defense arguing over things like UCAV vs. shiny new multi-purpose fighter/bombers. Just don’t stand between them, ’cause that’s pretty hazardous ground, and both sides field heavy guns. :-O

    Sacred cow cooks up nice on a slow hickory smoke. Gonna be an intresting scrum in the new session.

  8. mw Says:

    “For waging conventional war, the new weapons we buy to replace old ones increase in cost far faster than the budget increases (which makes inevitable the shrinking and aging of our weapons, at growing cost). Also, the new systems rarely, if ever, bring a performance improvement commensurate with the cost increase. In some cases the new system is even a step backwards. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?s close air support capability is a good example. Among the aircraft it is to replace is the 1970s vintage – but still much used and almost universally praised – A-10 close air support aircraft. Even if the F-35 stays at its currently stated purchase price of $131 million per aircraft it will cost almost nine times more than an A-10, using inflation adjusted dollars. At that huge additional cost, it will have less payload than an A-10; it will not be able to loiter over the battlefield to help troops engaged in combat hour after hour; it will be too fast to be able to find targets independently, and even if it could, it will be too fragile to survive at the low altitude it must fly at to be truly effective, even against the primitive small arms and machine gun defenses terrorists and insurgents can mount.It also lacks the extraordinarily effective 30 mm cannon the A-10 carries, a weapon of astounding lethality against a wide variety of target types, including heavy armor.”

    Senator Tom Coburn – Republican

  9. mw Says:

    And who can forget how some of our leading liberal Democrats distinguished themselves by opposing the Commander in Chief and Secretary of Defense to support wasting billions on a truly useless weapon system last year:

    Just check the spectacle of supposedly enlightened Democrats like California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, joined by Connecticut’s Chris Dodd, treating yet another $1.75 billion F-22 allotment for war profiteers as a progressive jobs program. Los Angeles couldn’t find $50 million to keep its summer schools open, but a supposedly liberal senator like Boxer has voted for hundreds of billions over the years for exquisitely expensive military junk. Having lost the courage to make the swords-into-plowshares argument, they act like craven hustlers for the Daddy Warbucks types that support their re-elections. And once again, when it comes to being rational about military spending, John McCain, a Senate co-sponsor with Michigan Democrat Carl Levin of an amendment against funding the F-22, distinguished himself in the very moment when so many of his presumably less hawkish Democratic counterparts failed.

    The Nation

    Anyone who wants to characterize bloated and wasteful defense spending as a “Democrat Good – Republican Bad” issue, is either not paying attention, being willfully ignorant, or disingenuous.

  10. Chris Says:

    it never looks good to cut spending on the bloated MIC, regardless of what irrelevant letter is next to your name on cspan.

  11. Tillyosu Says:

    Obviously, Justin missed (or chose to ignore) Tom Coburn who this week said:

    Taking defense spending off the table is indefensible. We need to protect our nation, not the Pentagon’s sacred cows.

    Or how about Rand Paul who said:

    In order to address the deficit the only compromise that I think we can have is you have to look at the whole budget. We’ve always excluded the military and said we’re not gonna look at the military…everything has to be on the table.

    Or how about Pat Toomey who said:

    But the fact is, there is waste pretty much everywhere in the government, and that includes the Pentagon. Part of the problem is Congress voting on systems the Pentagon doesn’t even want.

    Or Mark Kirk who said:

    For example, I back spending restraint across the board. At the DOD like no second engine for the F-35 Fighter, closing down joint forces command, across the board reductions.

    Or Johnny Isakson who said:

    Well first of all there’s not a government program that shouldn’t be under scrutiny. And that begins with the Department of Defense and goes all the way through.

    Or how about Bob Corker who said:

    Everything! I mean, look, Secretary Gates will tell you there’s a lot of waste there. We need to streamline it.

    Yes that’s right Justin, all those crazy, kooky “Teabaggers,” and conservative Republicans are actually serious about cutting spending.

    I’ll await your retraction…

    (Thanks to Think Progress for compiling these)

  12. Simon Says:

    Tully said:

    Nor have our partners in the JSF project (the UK, Italy, Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark) pulled their support or funding. Apparently they don’t find it “redundant” either. I’m confused as to where that characterization comes from, unless Justin means “redundant” in the sense that the development of the B-52 after WW2 was “redundant” because we still had all those B-24?s and B-29?s.

    That was my question, too. Justin, do you have any source for your twin claims that $382 billion is an excessive figure for developing a military jet or that the F35 is “redundant”? Or are you relying on your years of experience in the defense procurement field? I’ve read a few arguments that the project is redundant (this is typical), but none have been persuasive and most are ultimately circular (“the JSF is redundant as a replacement for the existing air fleet because their air fleet forestalls the kind of battlefield for which JSF is designed”).

  13. Simon Says:

    Also, by the way: $382 billion for the JSF should be set into context: we’ll spend $678 billion on social security this year alone.

  14. Chris Says:

    simon that’s not even a valid comparison.

    But the neocons are beating the war drum already:
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/06/iran.us.graham/index.html

  15. kranky kritter Says:

    You said “the neocons.” But the article you link to cites only a single person, one senator. Graham.

    Who are the others? Or does one count as a trend if it supports your argument?

  16. Simon Says:

    Chris,
    Of course it’s a valid comparison–it’s two uses of government money, regardless of personal policy proclivities. The only difference is that the money spent on the fighter is a proper use of federal money.

  17. kranky kritter Says:

    The Only difference?Hmm. Let me think.

    Ooh, ooh, I’ve got it. Here’s another difference. The money spent on social security will allow millions of senior citizens to buy food.

  18. Chris Says:

    Simon, have you ever been evaluated by a professional in the mental health field? If not you might want to get on that.

  19. Simon Says:

    KK, the federal government has a number of responsibilities, foremost among which is the “defense of the realm,” so to speak. Maintaining an up-to-date military force is in its wheelhouse. Money spent on social security, however, is only dubiously connected with the federal government’s role, and would better be dealt with by the states. The problem is that you’re joining them up. You’re assuming that the federal government must choose between guns and butter; I reject the notion that butter is a federal concern, and am therefore able to see the false dichotomy.

    The peacenik argument that the military is unnecessary because we face no immediate threat is the same kind of circular thinking that dooms the F35 objections. We face no immediate threat because of
    our military standing, and so the security provided by that military cannot be beaten into an argument against updating the military.

  20. kranky kritter Says:

    Simon, what’s it like refighting old theoretical arguments long lost and replaced by millions of concrete facts on the ground? Quixotic, I bet. Thinking you are fighting a mad beast when you are only tilting at a windmill. The glory and honor? All in your head. Sure it mattered? So was quixote. If only they had seroquel in those days.

    If you find some way to un-promise social security without starving the promised, without riots, without pitchforks on the white house lawn of 2012′s new Republican President, let us know.

    If not, why waste everyone’s time? There are, at minimum, tens of millions of Americans who have no chance of living at a subsistence level after retirement without receiving social security substantially as promised. And so, they will get that. Live with it.

    You have given us a lovely description of a hardcore peacnik point of view that, to my knowledge, no one here holds. Why? Why because it’s the straw man you can beat with your black and white, all or nothing brilliance.

    No one here is arguing that the military is unnecessary. They’re arguing that it is too big and bloated. Sound familiar yet? That we can’t afford it. Ring a bell? That we will need to face hard choices, and even some programs we would like to keep will have to go, because we just don’t have the money. Can you hear me now?

    All of the arguments about fiscally responsible federal policy made by Republicans and other conservatives during the last 22 months apply to our military budget. ALL of them.

    That puts conservatives who want to exempt the defense budget from promised austerity measures in a difficult spot. Because while the angry genpub has convinced itself that less fed spending makes sense, they have NOT become convinced that our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are especially worthwhile. They’d choose ending America’s expensive foreign entanglements, military or otherwise, over cutting social security. in a f**kingheartbeat.

    Seems to me that more than one Republican is quite hip to this, and is good wit it. Let’s stay tuned while the REAL conservative deficit hawks separate themselves from the plain old hawks.

  21. Simon Says:

    If you find some way to un-promise social security …, let us know. If not, why waste everyone’s time?

    Baseline creep.

    No one here is arguing that the military is unnecessary.

    Justin claimed that a specific military program was “redundant” and projects “like it” should be shelved. We’re still trying to figure out the basis for those suggestions.

    They’re arguing that it is too big and bloated. … That we can’t afford it. … That we will need to face hard choices, and even some programs we would like to keep will have to go, because we just don’t have the money.

    Again, the 2010 federal budget is $3.55 trillion; the Pentagon’s slice is less than $664 billion, around nineteen percent. Military spending isn’t the problem, and one can’t credibly claimed that we can’t afford it when we’re wasting—literally—trillions on other programs that are peripheral at best to the federal government’s mission. Now, if you want to talk about cutting specific unnecessary programs, about redirecting funds to other projects, things like that, that’s fine. But one must do so with great deference to the military’s own judgment as to what it needs to effectively accomplish its mission, and one can’t simply say “oh, such and such a program is redundant” without the backing of some kind of expertise.

    That puts conservatives who want to exempt the defense budget from promised austerity measures in a difficult spot.

    Not really. Everyone agrees that the military is important, except hardcore self-marginalized liberals à la Kucinich.

    Because while the angry genpub has convinced itself that less fed spending makes sense, they have NOT become convinced that our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are especially worthwhile. They’d choose ending America’s expensive foreign entanglements, military or otherwise, over cutting social security. in a f**kingheartbeat.

    I’m sure they would, but that only proves that the average voter doesn’t know anything about the federal budget: “ending America’s expensive foreign entanglements, military or otherwise,” will not even come close to saving entitlement spending. If we ended those commitments tomorrow, it would make virtually no difference to the reality that our mandatory spending is more than we can afford and sustain, and those programs would still need to be cut.

  22. kranky kritter Says:

    Nowhere have I argued that social security and medicare entitlements are off the table and can’t be cut. My point is that your argument that they aren’t part of the federal government’s mission is not going to matter to anyone during the course of solving our budget problems.

    Social security and medicare are deux faits accompli. Obviously we have to bend the long-term cost line back to solvency. And tweaks to creep it back that way are the only viable method.

    But there’s no way that that line is going to get past solvency to a shrinking of the program and getting the fed out of these two businesses. It aint gonna happen, for two reasons.

    First, with the budget as grossly out of balance as it is now, there is NO WAY the government can find the extra dough to continue to finance SS and medicare promises already made while also weaning younger generations off of this system and into private accounts. Any person who does the math on keeping the system afloat while weaning younger generations off says the cost is astronomical, and could be done only via enormous borrowing levels.

    Second, we’re only 2 years past a halving of the stock market. A Halving!! I can;t sress the emotional impact of this on Americans enough. This is why conservative static about private accounts for portions of your SS dough has subsided to a whisper. 4 years ago, lots of people with 401ks and IRAs were totally bought in on this idea.

    That enthusiasm and self-righteousness evaporated with the halving.

  23. kranky kritter Says:

    Again, the 2010 federal budget is $3.55 trillion; the Pentagon’s slice is less than $664 billion, around nineteen percent.

    This is well below your usual standard for insincere preposterous argument when you choose to argue based on weak-sense critical thinking. 19% is a very substantial chunk.

    Military spending isn’t the problem,

    Right. No one has argued that it’s “THE” problem. It’s a substantial portion of an unsustainably large budget. It gets hoved onto the table by anyone serious..

    and one can’t credibly claimed that we can’t afford it when we’re wasting—literally—trillions on other programs that are peripheral at best to the federal government’s mission.

    Sure one can. I already did. You argument about the federal government’s mission is indeed technically credible. But it lacks any real-world credibility when the ship left the harbor so long ago.

    The time for arguing about whether the feds should have established SS and medicare has long since passed. The ships were built, and we’re all on board those ships whether we like it or not. Most of us were in fact born on board. And we’re decades and quadrillions of dollars from any harbor where we could put in, offload, and have a new debate about the merits of seafaring.

    You are deluding yourself if you think the debate about military cuts versus entitlement cuts will rest on our founders’ intentions about scope of federal activity. I admire your idealism a little, but you’re living in a fantasy.

    Now, I don’t agree with anyone who casts the argument in either/or terms. I think both must be revised down. But I am not so nitwitted as to be unable to forecast how such an argument will be seen by the public. They will see a giant military budget comprised largely of the expenses required to continue efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan that do not seem to have achieved much for everyday Americans. That will be compared to demands that working class Americans work longer for diminished benefits.

    That will put freshening breeze under the wings of a populism that deeply resents every penny the government spends overseas. The post-9/11 world brought about a peak in American overseas military intervention that is running its course. Americans are tired of it. Even our most hawkish leaders must accept that and work with it.

    We’re going to keep reducing our involvement in Iraq, and we’ll probably declare victory in Afghanistan based on whatever declaration of lowered expectations we can muster. And then we’ll do our best to work on counterbalancing Iranian influence in cooperation with nations in the region who have a real stake. That’s how it’s going to unfold.

    In that environment, hawks are going to have an extremely difficult time defending spending money on weapons whenever they don’t seem designed to combat the types of known enemies we’ve been fighting since 2001. I have no thoughts on whether $382 billion for the next generation of gee-whiz fighter jets is “redundant.”
    Instead, it just seems like a ready-fire-aim way of spending money to fight our known enemies. In other words, it feels al ot like the federal stimulus plan.

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