Pink Slips Are Politics, not Strategy

July 16, 2012

As Washington does political battle on defense spending and sequestration, a consensus has emerged among budget experts, the public and defense leaders: that a balanced approach – new revenues and careful cuts – will best serve our economy and our security. With defense industry leaders set to appear before Congress on the same day defense spending legislation goes to the floor, this week what we’re hearing is political scaremongering from an industry that earned record profits last year – and baseless claims that American jobs are at risk.

National security budgeting is about providing best national security and economic growth for the country, not scare tactics about jobs.  William Hartung and Stephen Miles explain, “Not a day goes by in Washington without hearing yet another threat that cuts to the Pentagon will result in massive job losses for America’s working men and women. The latest example is Lockheed Martin’s outrageous announcement that it may send notices to all of its 123,000 employees before the November election asserting that they are at risk of being laid off if automatic cuts in Pentagon spending called for under current law were to take effect… The simple truth is that there is absolutely no reason that any major Pentagon contractor needs to send out massive numbers of pink slips. In fact, despite recent budget shifts, times have been very, very good for Pentagon contractors. A recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers analysis reveals that the defense and aerospace industry saw yet another year of record revenue and profits in 2011.” [William Hartung and Stephen Miles, 6/25/12]

National security leaders call for a balanced approach.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “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]

Ash Carter, deputy secretary of defense: “Sequester was supposed to be … a trigger so irrational that the prospect of it would … drive the leadership to do what was needed, which was to put together an overall budget package for the nation’s finances that could win wide support.” [Ash Carter via Washington Times, 5/30/12]

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]

Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.), Dr. Nora Bensahel and Travis Sharp of CNAS: “The responsible way forward is clear: Congress should set aside sequestration as soon as possible and work to develop a thoughtful, comprehensive deficit-reduction package. The Budget Control Act’s $487 billion level of defense cuts should stand, and any further cuts should be implemented gradually as part of a new deficit-reduction package—while keeping in mind the potential for greater national-security risk as the amount of cuts increases.” [David W. Barno, Nora Bensahel and Travis Sharp, 1/26/12]

Americans support a balanced approach, even those in Congressional districts with heavy defense speeding.  World Public Opinion reports today, “A unique survey conducted by the Program for Public Consultation, the Stimson Center, and the Center for Public Integrity has found that substantial cuts to the defense budget are favored by majorities in both Red and Blue districts, as well as majorities in districts that benefit from high levels of defense spending.”  Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post’s WonkBlog adds, “Ordinary Americans are far more eager to cut defense spending than their representatives in Washington. As I noted a few weeks ago, a survey by the Stimson Center shows they want a 18 percent cut, or a $103.5 billion reduction, compared to President Obama’s proposal to cut defense by just 0.7 percent in 2013 and Romney’s plan to increase defense spending by 17 percent in 2013. The Stimson Center has dug deeper into its numbers and finds that the appetite among the public for defense cuts might even be stronger than politicos in Washington might believe. The center finds that voters in districts with the most defense spending in the country “were no less willing” to cut such spending than those in districts with low defense spending.” [World Public Opinion, 7/16/12. Suzy Khimm, 7/16/12]

Defense spending is not meant to be a jobs program, nor is it an effective one.  As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said earlier this year, defense manufacturing cannot primarily be “a job creator for America.”  Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute found, “spending on the military is a relatively poor source of job creation. Indeed, our research finds that $1 billion in spending on the military will generate about 11,200 jobs. By contrast, the employment effects of spending in alternative areas will be 15,100 for household consumption, 16,800 for the green economy, 17,200 for health care, and 26,700 for education. That is, investments in the green economy, health care and education will produce between about 50–140 percent more jobs than if the same amount of money were spent by the Pentagon.[ Lindsey Graham via MSNBC, 2/14/12. Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, 12/11]

 What We’re Reading

After meeting Egypt’s new president, Hillary Clinton holds high-level meetings in Israel.

The UAE opened a new oil pipeline that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz, further weakening Iran’s economic leverage.

Russia claimed that western attempts to get Moscow to sanction Syria contained elements of blackmail.

A suicide bomber killed a well-known Afghan politician as well as two others.

The Taliban banned polio vaccines until U.S. drone strikes stop, leaving 250,000 children without immunizations.

Japan recalled its ambassador to China after a territorial dispute.

Germany’s constitutional court will not rule on the legality of euro zone bailout measures until September.

The African Union elected its first female leader.

Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo agreed to allow an international force help combat against rebels.

Cuba has contained its cholera outbreak.

 Commentary of the Day

 Richard Wike and Bruce Stokes explain how the focus of the Arab Spring will soon shift to economics.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Susan Collins argue for an increase in funding for biofuels in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies discusses how trade sanctions have disrupted the Iranian missile program.

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