Obama and Republican Hawks Are in Perfect Agreement about Pentagon Spending
October 11, 2014
Jonathan Bydlak / Rare Contributor
In 2011, President Obama pledged to "any effort to get rid of ... automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending." At the Pentagon earlier this week, President Obama reversed his position and calling sequestration "draconian" and calling for its suspension -- not to increase spending on domestic programs like education, health and infrastructure, however, but to increase spending on the costs of the Pentagon's military interventions around the world.
(October 10, 2014) -- At the Pentagon earlier this week for a national security update, President Obama doubled down on his calls for ending sequestration, labeling it "draconian" in a time of increased demands on the military.
Yet as recently as 2011, the President was on record as saying, "I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one."
What a difference a few years makes. The sequester, a collection of discretionary spending caps, ended up becoming law after the so-called "Super Committee" failed to enact cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. And perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before the President changed his tune.
But that didn't stop a persistent and tiresome cliché from arising among many on the right: President Obama and his administration were "slashing our military." Earlier this year, for example, Senator Marco Rubio blasted the President and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's latest budget request, saying "his administration has been cutting defense since it came into office."
House Budget Chair Rep. Paul Ryan agreed, arguing that the proposed cuts would "gut our military." And just this month, Governor and potential 2016 hopeful Bobby Jindal jumped on the bandwagon, saying "the need now is for more funding, not less."
Unfortunately for them, facts are stubborn things.
Strategic disagreements aside, President Obama and the Ryans and Jindals of the world continue to share the same misguided approach to Pentagon spending: more is always better, debt doesn't matter, and the Pentagon is a magical government department immune from the types of inefficiencies and waste seen in every other branch or agency.
The most recent budget request that had feathers ruffled? It cut just $113 million from the Pentagon -- a whopping 0.1% of the overall budget. And that's not to mention the $80 billion Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget -- what's largely being relied upon to fight ISIS. OCO was not affected by sequestration at all and has been devoid of any real oversight.
Perhaps worst of all, Congress continues its long and nasty habit of giving the Pentagon presents it didn't ask for -- like the $7 billion in unrequested earmarks in this year's Defense appropriations. Congress also regularly blocks the military's own attempts to cut costs through ending participation in some programs or retiring old ships, for instance.
President Obama and his administration do have a different approach to troop levels and foreign policy, sure. That approach should be analyzed and critiqued. But he is not -- and has never been -- a budget slasher.
He and too many establishment Republicans are in perfect agreement when it comes to massive Pentagon spending. And by ignoring the plentiful opportunities for reform and cost-cutting in this Department that counts for 55 percent of the total discretionary budget and one-fifth of the overall budget, they both lose credibility -- and we all lose fiscal responsibility.
Jonathan Bydlak is the founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, a group dedicated to putting all spending on the table for reduction. He is the former Director of Fundraising for Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Princeton University. He currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jbydlak
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