Scaremongers Charge the Hill

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Scaremongers Charge the Hill

The National Security Network issued the following statement on Pentagon spending and the sequester:

Defense contractors and some members of Congress have been spotlighting a “side show” aimed at preserving corporate profits over advancing a strategy to preserve US security. This week, an Aerospace Industry Association (AIA)-sponsored report and a congressional hearing with four top defense contractors are megaphoning an argument that sequestration would be devastating to defense jobs, with the implication that we should shelter Pentagon spending from deficit reduction plans.

The reality is that economic and military security are inextricably linked and, as Chairman Martin Dempsey has pointed out, “we are only as strong as those three pillars – diplomatic, military and economic – can interrelate.” With this strategic imperative to preserve America’s economic foundations in mind, as well as an acknowledgement that the Pentagon budget played a role in creating the deficit, our military and civilian security leaders accept that Pentagon spending “has to be on the table.” In previous postwar periods, the US reduced military spending without the sky falling. Even Dick Cheney, on Capitol Hill on Tuesday issuing dire warnings, oversaw Pentagon cuts when he was secretary of defense.

Military and security leaders have called for safeguarding investments in “human capital” -first and foremost, education-as a foundation of American security. Nor do they favor sheltering the Defense Department at the cost of exploding American debt or letting the deficit get out of control. Were the sequester to be triggered by Congress’ failure to reach an agreement, the effects would be challenging for the Defense Department, but not quite the “doomsday” some have breathlessly declared. To avoid these automatic defense cuts, though, the remaining best option is a balanced approach with smart cuts, including to the Pentagon, as well as additional revenues – as was pointed out at AIA’s own event yesterday.

Furthermore, the study being promoted by AIA suggesting two million job losses is hardly unbiased – it was funded by the industry and relies on unrealistic assumptions. As retired senior White House budget official for national security Gordon Adams points out, it assumes that Pentagon budgets exist in a vacuum, ignoring both the effects of redirecting spending to other parts of the economy and the possibility of manipulating baselines and time horizons – thus producing overblown results.

In fact, an independent, non-industry study concludes that the same amount of cuts in key domestic programs would produce greater job losses by a factor of 50 to 140 percent, and Adams notes cuts in domestic programs would also affect “indirect jobs.” (Nor have defense companies decrying cuts offered to reduce their own corporate bonuses like the $25 million to Lockheed’s CEO.) It is surprising to see conservatives turn the Pentagon into a jobs program – rather than a guarantor of American security- and a shining example of government-led job creation.

Congress promised to protect that economic strength when it signed the bipartisan budget deal into law. Now let’s leave the rhetoric behind and focus on a responsible bipartisan plan to meet this security imperative.

[Gordon Adams, 10/30/11. Martin Dempsey, 1/12/12. Mike Mullen via Defense News, 7/10/11. Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley, 9/10. Dick Cheney and Colin Powell via Think Progress, 7/17/12. Council on Foreign Relations Task Force, 3/12. Mike Mullen via CNN, 8/27/10. Lawrence Korb, 11/17/11. Jeanne Shaheen, 7/17/12. Bloomberg News, 7/17/12. Gordon Adams, 10/30/11. Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, 12/11. William Hartung and Stephen Miles, 6/25/12. Dean Baker, 10/26/11]

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