Defense Analysts Blast Military Exemption to Spending Freeze

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Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 12:00 am
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union on Wednesday. (White House Photo)

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union on Wednesday. (White House Photo)

Steve Kosiak has spent much of his career as a defense analyst frustrated by military bloat. In early 2003, he found it was “impossible to say precisely” how much of the Bush administration’s military buildup was actually attributable to the post-9/11 emergency and how much was pre-existing defense pork. A 2005 paper he authored for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a leading Washington defense think tank, warned that rising defense costs could add “some $900 billion to projected deficits.” And in December 2008, he devoted almost 100 pages to carefully itemizing the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — $970 billion as of then, he found — and placing them in a broader social, economic and budgetary context.

The Obama administration is deeply familiar with Kosiak’s work. A year ago, the White House tapped him to oversee defense spending for the Office of Management and Budget. And that makes President Obama’s decision to exempt the hundreds of billions spent annually on defense and homeland security from a proposed overall freeze in discretionary spending — a policy he formally unveiled in his State of the Union address Wednesday night — particularly difficult for defense analysts to understand.

[Security1]Leading defense wonks, particularly those on the left, have harsh words for the exemption. “Ridiculous,” said Laicie Olson of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “Completely inappropriate,” said Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress. “A political decision,” said Charles Knight of the Project on Defense Alternatives.

Obama’s first defense budget, submitted last spring, topped out at $663 billion when including the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — an overall increase from the final Bush administration Pentagon budget — but also terminated major defense programs hated by reformers, including the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, the Army’s Future Combat System vehicle and ground-based missile defense. But despite the real-dollar increase, conservatives criticized Obama’s budget when they saw that those program cancellations would bring down future defense spending. Similarly, Obama raised the Department of Homeland Security’s budget to $43 billion from $40 billion.

Reformers had looked to the release of the master Pentagon planning document known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, currently scheduled for a rollout next week, to guide future reductions in defense programs of questionable value, plagued by cost overruns or beset with design flaws, like the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. When announcing his cuts last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted that the so-called QDR would shape future decisions on cuts or program restructuring.

Several defense analysts said they have received indications the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle will survive the QDR relatively unscathed, however. It is unclear if the QDR will indicate any additional program cuts are forthcoming, but the document will be released alongside the administration’s proposed fiscal 2011 defense budget, which is expected to total $740 billion when roughly $33 billion for funding Obama’s Afghanistan “extended troop surge” is factored in. Reports indicate that Obama will seek to fund that through a supplemental budget request rather than one big budget document for all defense requirements — something candidate Obama pledged not to do.

But while Obama did not rule out future defense cuts in the speech, many of these defense wonks could not understand why an effort at deficit reduction would explicitly exclude defense spending. “Defense spending is over half our discretionary spending,” Olson said. “It would be crazy not to include it. It begs the question whether this is a real effort.” Shortly before the speech, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the speaker of the House, told reporters that any spending freeze ought to include defense spending.

The freeze will also exclude spending on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. As a result, administration officials anticipate the spending freeze will save $250 billion over 10 years — a little more than a third of last year’s defense budget alone.

Korb, the senior defense analyst at the White House-connected Center for American Progress and a former Reagan Pentagon official, said the decision only made sense in terms of politics. “It’s another indication that Democrats are afraid of being seen as quote-unquote soft on defense,” Korb said, noting that no defense reformer was proposing cuts to any programs used for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Still, Todd Harrison, an defense-budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said he believed the combination of massive defense budgets, massive federal deficits and a weak economy would inevitably compel Congress and the president to cut defense. “It’s likely in the future that everything will come under pressure, defense included,” Harrison said. But he conceded that a variable in that calculation is “political will” for such cuts — which is not in evidence in either the White House or, especially, the Congress, which loves to send defense money back home to individual states and districts.

While that political will may not exist in Washington, there is reason to believe it exists outside of the city. According to a Pew poll from December, defense spending ranked among the most popular sectors of the federal budget to cut. Eighteen percent of respondents identified “military defense” as a target for desired budget reductions, compared to six percent for education and 15 percent for unemployment assistance.

“Its absolutely ridiculous to think that we’re going to cut things like education and spend money on nuclear weapons and programs that don’t work, are faulty, have been faulty for years and continue to waste money,” Olson said.

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chris
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

The 5 sided black hole, the biggest welfare program in the history of the universe ! But “freedom isn't free” and there are “killers out there”? have you hugged a bogey man today?


john234555
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

Amen brother. What a joke – save 250 billion over ten years, but OK a 700+billion handout for defense for just 2011 alone! Obama had an opportunity to demonstrate some real leadership in Washington, but has thus far failed miserably.


strangely_enough
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

The Pentagon budget for next year is something like $700 billion, not counting wars and . How long until it is $1 trillion? How long until the unsustainability of those numbers becomes obvious to the people who would rather not have to discuss things like over $2 trillion in accountable funds for their fetishized military cash cow?


triathlon
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED

[YOU GOT A BETTER PLAN]

Now, the new plan the German Foreign Minister Dr. Guido Westerwelle, is a basically well taught out plan than has been contributed to by may Netizens, [Net-Citizens], Dreamers, Thinkers, and Workers of the New [21st] Century, who like it or not will soon be behind the steering wheel, and they have control of the radio, and decide just what tunes are going to be played. But, that said, is the plan perfect, NO! The best laid plans of mice and men are often led astray, so it goes, and so it is with Dr. Westerwelle’s plan, but any plan is better than nothing at all, and the plan placed on the table by the Arrogant Richard Hal Holbrooke after his nabs, catching his [Z’s], getting that beauty rest, was no plan at all, give us troops and money and we will decide just how to make use of both, Hillary Diane Rodham-Clinton Saber Rattling, my way or the highway, gun-boat diplomacy. Now, we have the two plans on the table, if anyone has a better plan to offer, well the proposition is open for discussion.

[THE MIDDLE ROAD OUT]

In this corner we have the American-Israeli Empire, whose plan is to colonize the entire of the Islamic Crescent/Arabian Peninsula/Hindu Cush, in yet another War of Economic Stimulus, Resources and Markets, Blood for Oil, [NYSE] New York Stock Exchange carnage. On the other side we have the [IFF/IECF] Islamic Freedom Fighters/Irregular Enemy Combatant Forces, they have been there, done that, so many time’s it’s simply nothing new, we were here before the Empire came here and we will still be here after yet another Empire has left. The New Plan offered up Dr. Westerwelle’s was and is a well taught up one, and it allowed for freedom of change, here’s the clay now form your pot or vase anyway you desire, but no using it as a weapon this is government [101] and not weapons making [101]. The problem was, is and will be the American-Israeli Empire, it is there to colonize, and set up a so called Democratic Government a Democratic Puppet Government, if it were about aiding in the establishment of a stable government of whatever type, with a firm withdrawal planned date, it would in fact work, but that’s not Stan the Man’s Plan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal the Commander of the [NATO] North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in the [Islamic Crescent/Arabian Peninsula/Hindu Cush], or Hillary Diane Rodham-Clinton’s Third Clinton Presidency.

[Germany Training [IFF/IECF]]

So, what are Germany, The German & French Alliance, and the [EU] European Union left with buy your way out! It is being screamed that Germany is only training [IFF/IECF], and the answer to that is [You Bet Ya!], it’s the only way out for the now broken [NATO] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, [EU] members, it gives political cover. Well, we were task with the job of training paramilitary, military, and police forces, task complete were going home, the other side is saying, now, were paying you to be part of our organization, and we have set up Jurga’s [Local Government] we have been there for you, now you must be here for us and yourself, we will continue to pay you, as you collect yet another paycheck from the Empire. Go receive the training the offer and bring that training back to be shared with others of your true family community, family comes first. But, were leaving behind a failed governmental structure, NO! Your leaving behind a Non-Democratic, Non-Puppet [IFF/IECF] run government, and as one Joe Black said, I wouldn’t worry these things have a way of working themselves out.

[Europe is buying its way out]

Make no mistake that in fact Germany, the German & French Alliance, and the [EU] are buying their way out of the Empires Colonization War of Economic Stimulus on the [Islamic Crescent/Arabian Peninsula/Hindu Cush] with;

* [REHABILITATION FUND]: A Rehabilitation Fund which the German Republic is putting it’s money were its mouth is in the amount of [€50M/$70.36M] Fifty-Million Euros/Seventy-Point-thirty Million Dollars, part of a [€350M/$492.5M] Three-Hundred-Fifty-Million-Euros/Four-hundred-ninety-two-million in pledges to the fund.

* [A RECONSTRUCTION FUND] for the construction of a modern infrastructure, economic and social development process vital to the peoples of the region, and in line with Step Six, of the [Self Supporting Security] approach. To which Germany has pledged [€430M/$605M] Four-Hundred-Thirty-Million-Euros/Six-Hundred-Five-Million-Dollars, Annually until [2013].

[LESSONS LEARNED]

* We have a Brilliant and Bond New European Leader in the German Foreign Minister Dr. Guido Westerwelle

* The Tea-Baggers, Netizens, [Net-Citizens], Dreamers, Thinkers, and Workers of the New [21st] Century are stepping up and beginning to make a difference.

* [NATO] is gone the way of the League of Nations, and the Dodo Bird.

* Germany was never a cowardly nation, it was and is a Dr. Bruce Banner nation, [THE HULK], don’t make us angry your not going to like us when were angry. A NEW GERMARY has been born, and will change the dynamics of Europe

* The American-Israeli Empire is just another Imperialist Colonial Power in the Graveyard of Empires, with the same end result.

* That the Empire is in yet another failing third Clinton Administration control, of Hillary Diane Rodham-Clinton and Bubba, Saber Rattling, my way or the highway, we know what’s best, gun-boat diplomacy, Wars of Economic Stimulus [21st] Century; do over of the [20th]. That the Tea-Baggers, Netizens, [Net-Citizens], Dreamers, Thinkers, and Workers of the New [21st] aren’t buying into.

HERCULE TRIATHLON SAVINIEN


chrisjay
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

Talk about insulting a nation's intelligence—only Fox News-watching cretins-and Obama, evidently-believe the moronic shibboleth that the defense budget is a sacred cow which should never EVER be examined with the intent to identify fat & pork which may need to be trimmed.
Bush-light indeed…


JC
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

Obama on Pentagon Waste

“There's still more waste we need to cut.” – 10/28/2009

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 28, 2009
Remarks by the President at the Signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010
East Room
2:42 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please, everybody be seated.
Good afternoon. I have often said that meeting our greatest challenges would require not only changing policies in Washington but changing the way business is done in Washington; that it would require a government that's more efficient and effective and less influenced by lobbyists and parochial politics. And I'm pleased to say that when it comes to the defense bill I'm about to sign into law, we've taken some important steps towards that goal.
I want to acknowledge my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden. (Applause.) Attorney General Eric Holder is here. (Applause.) And all members of Congress who are joining us here today, thank you very much for your outstanding work. You can give members of Congress a round of applause. (Applause.)
As Commander-in-Chief, I will always do whatever it takes to keep the American people safe, to defend this nation. And that's why this bill provides for the best military in the history of the world. It reaffirms our commitment to our brave men and women in uniform and our wounded warriors. It expands family leave rights for the family members of our troops and veterans. And it makes investments in the capabilities necessary to meet 21st century challenges.
But I have always rejected the notion that we have to waste billions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep this nation secure. In fact, I think that wasting these dollars makes us less secure. And that's why we have passed a defense bill that eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in our defense process — reforms that will better protect our nation, better protect our troops, and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.
Now, at the outset, let me just say that this effort would not have been possible without an extraordinary Secretary of Defense. And so I want to thank publicly Bob Gates for his service to our nation. (Applause.)
Having served under eight Presidents of both parties, this is a man who understands that our defense budget isn't about politics, it's about the security of our country, and who knows that every dollar wasted is a dollar we can't spend to care for our troops or protect the homeland.
And over the last several months, he took that fight to Congress. He challenged conventional thinking, and he emerged with several critical victories. So on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, Bob, for your extraordinary efforts. (Applause.)
Now, Bob couldn't have been successful had it not been for the next person I want to introduce — Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He provided wise counsel and stood with us in our efforts to initiate reform, even though it probably occasionally caused some heartburn inside of the Pentagon as well, because change is hard. And so I'm very grateful for his leadership and excellent work. Please give — (applause.)
And finally, I want to thank the members of Congress, particularly Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, and Congressmen Ike Skelton and Buck McKeon. As the chairmen and ranking members of their respective committees, they did an outstanding job.
Now, this bill isn't perfect. This bill is an important step forward, but it's just a first step. There's still more waste we need to cut. There are still more fights that we need to win. Changing the culture in Washington will take time and sustained effort. And that's why Secretary Gates and I will continue waging these battles in the months and years ahead.

But I will say that when Secretary Gates and I first proposed going after some of these wasteful projects, there were a lot of people in this town who didn't think it was possible, who were certain we were going to lose, who were certain that we would get steamrolled, who argued that the special interests were too entrenched, and that Washington was simply too set in its ways.
And so I think it's important to note today we have proven them wrong. Today we're putting an end to some wasteful projects that lawmakers have tried to kill for years. And we're doing this because Secretary Gates and I both know that we can't build the 21st century military we need unless we fundamentally reform the way our defense establishment does business. The Government Accountability Office, the GAO, has looked into 96 major defense projects from the last year, and found cost overruns that totaled $296 billion, an amount of money that would have paid our troops' salaries and provided benefits for their families for more than a year.
And we all know where this kind of waste comes from — indefensible, no-bid contracts that cost taxpayers billions and make contractors rich; special interests and their exotic projects that are years behind schedule and billions over budget; entrenched lobbyists pushing weapons that even our military says it doesn't want and doesn't need — the impulse in Washington to win political points back home by building things that we don't need at costs we can't afford. This waste would be unacceptable at any time, but at a time when we're fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, it's inexcusable. It's unconscionable. It's an affront to the American people and to our troops, and it has to stop.
And already I've put an end to unnecessary no-bid contracts. I signed bipartisan legislation to reform defense procurement so weapons systems don't spin out of control. And even as we made critical investments in the equipment and weapons our troops do need, we're eliminating tens of billions of dollars in waste we don't need. So no longer will we be spending nearly $2 billion to buy more F-22 fighter jets that the Pentagon says they don't need. This bill also terminates troubled and massively over budget programs such as the Future Combat Systems, the Airborne Lasers, the Combat Search and Rescue helicopter, and a new presidential helicopter that costs nearly as much as Air Force One. I won't be flying on that.
At the same time, we accelerated or increased weapons programs needed to confront real and growing threats — the Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, and more helicopters and reconnaissance support for our troops at the front.
And this bill also reduces waste and fraud in our contracting system, as well as our reliance on private contractors for jobs that federal employees have the expertise and the training to do.
So today I'm pleased to say that we have proved that change is possible. It may not come quickly, or all at once, but if you push hard enough, it does come eventually.
Now, speaking of that, there is one more long-awaited change contained within this legislation that I'll be talking about a little more later today. After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are. (Applause.)
I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day — make this day possible. So — and thank you for joining us here today. (Applause.)
So, with that, I'm going to sign this piece of legislation. Thank you all for doing a great job. All right.
(The Act is signed.) (Applause.)


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[...] has some powerful support for her criticism of the exemption of the military budget – military analysts who face the bloat in the contracting system every [...]


karenhornsby
Comment posted January 28, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

Let's cut the defense spending where it will be beneficial to the taxpayer and helpful to our Military. The defense contractors are wasting our money in most cases by “reinventing the wheel,” just to keep programs going and “their rice bowls full.” Hold them accountable for every dime they spend of our money and make sure our troops are receiving what they need. Most of the time programs are “concept” programs that have already been proven years prior. This is an attempt to scam the taxpayer and put money in the hands of corrupt defense companies and military labs and the technology never reaches the soldier.Lets stop waste, fraud, and abuse!


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Leading defense wonks, particularly those on the left, have harsh words for the exemption. “Ridiculous,” said Laicie Olson of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.


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Comment posted February 2, 2010 @ 2:15 am

I'm sure there are some military bases in the U.S. that could be closed or reduced in size. Obama has lost an easy opportunity to save money. It is pretty mystifying, given that most of his supporters would have been much in favor of having the military budget included in the cuts.


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Comment posted February 11, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

have you served in the military or worked for DOD in any capacity?


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