Governing for a Strong America

June 26, 2012

America is at a critical impasse. The sequester, which was designed, in the words of Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, to be “a trigger so irrational that the prospect of it would … drive the leadership to do what was needed,” looms over the budget debate. Some bipartisan leaders have come to terms with what needs to be done. This includes measured reductions, increases in revenue and a commitment to U.S. infrastructure and economic strength that form the foundation of our national power. Ideology must not block an outcome that is vital to America’s economic and national security.

Voices who voted for sequestration now decry it — and are biggest reason it is a possibility.  Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, outlined the irony of conservative flip-flops on sequestration, saying they “ignored both their own role in creating sequestration in the first place and the fact that their stubborn resistance to any increase in revenues is the biggest reason why sequestration is even a possibility…  as much as these Republicans like to claim they’re deeply concerned about cuts to our defense budget, their votes for the BCA proved they care much more about blocking any increase in revenue, no matter how small or no matter the source.” Smith adds, “They prioritized protecting even the most outlandish tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations over protecting our defense budget. And they continue to do so.” [Adam Smith, 6/25/12]

Bipartisan and national security leaders recognize need for prudent cuts and additional revenue:

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-MI): “We’ve got to make hard choices, and the only choice that really is an acceptable one, the correct one, and one which is politically feasible, is to have a balanced solution, a solution which includes additional spending cuts but prioritized, prudent. No area can be exempt. … [The question of additional revenue] is the real challenge… I believe, eventually, the Republicans are going to have to choose.” [Carl Levin, National Press Club, 6/12/12]

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), member of the Armed Services Committee:  “When you eliminate a deduction, it’s okay with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the [Norquist tax] pledge… We’re so far in debt, that if you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks.” [Lindsey Graham via Yahoo!, 6/12/12]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey: “What we’ve said to Congress … is in the interests of national security, they really ought to find some other way than sequestration to balance this budget, and it can’t all be balanced on our backs.” [Martin Dempsey, 3/10/12]

Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense: “The onus is really on Congress to exercise the discipline, the political courage, the pragmatism to reach a budget deal that avoids sequestration, which would impose draconian cuts in a mindless way that would have severe and negative impacts for our national security…  I think frankly we would be wise to spend our time trying to build a balanced package … tax reform, spending cuts, and more investment in things that drive American competitiveness.” [Michèle Flournoy via the Cable, 5/15/12]

In addition to defense, sequestration affects national security across the board, including foundation of American power: our economic might at home. Scott Lilly, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, explains the effects of sequestration outside of defense: “Republicans in Congress have recently made it clear that they are concerned about one aspect of sequestration—the impact it will have on defense… [But] the impact of the nondefense sequestration cuts could be even more devastating to the economy than the defense cuts. Together, though, defense and nondefense cuts will deliver direct blows to millions of families who work at companies that do business with the government or who actually work directly for the government. Cuts in both defense and nondefense portions of the budget will also endanger national security as dozens upon dozens of government activities outside the Pentagon play a vital role in antiterrorist operations, the war on drugs, our ability to respond to international crises, preventing money laundering, and dealing with the threat of foreign espionage.”

But as Senator Levin explains, it is a “threat not just to important defense priorities, security priorities, but to a lot of other priorities of our nation, including education, including health care, transportation, environment and many other critically important challenge.” The effects to the economy at large are perhaps the most concerning for U.S. national security. As Charles Kupchan, professor at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, explains, “[R]enewing the nation’s economic health is vital to advancing its national security… Reviving economic growth, reducing unemployment and income inequality, improving education—these are prerequisites for rebuilding the economic base on which national power rests and restoring the political consensus needed to guide U.S. statecraft.” [Scott Lilly, 6/18/12. Carl Levin, National Press Club, 6/12/12. Charles Kupchan, Winter 2012]

What We’re Reading

The Turkish prime minister issued a warning regarding the nation’s border with Syria.

The Muslim Brotherhood reached initial agreements with the Egyptian army on the powers of the new president and the fate of the now-dissolved parliament.

Vladimir Putin met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel.

Japan passed legislation to allow military development in space.

North Korea criticized South Korea and the U.S. for using the North Korean flag during war drills.

The Taliban killed thirteen soldiers during a raid in to Pakistan.

Cyprus will apply formally for emergency funding from Europe of up to 10 billion euros.

Moody’s downgraded the credit rating of 28 Spanish banks.

Three of the largest Islamist groups in Africa are planning on joining forces with each other.

The U.S. is increasing funding to boost uncensored information to Cuba.

Commentary of the Day

Martin Indyk and Michael O’Hanlon rate President Obama’s foreign policy record and vision.

William Hartung and Stephen Miles claim that Pentagon contractors are using workers as pawns to create political controversy on defense sequestration.

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt considers the impact of the fishing industry on conflict between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea.

 

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