August 12, 2011 5:49 pm ET - by Walid Zafar
In an interview on Frank Gaffney's radio program yesterday, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) warned that proposed defense cuts in the recently passed Debt Ceiling Act would make it difficult for the U.S. to exert its influence around the world. The bipartisan package signed into law last week calls for $350 billion in cuts to military's budget over the next decade — cuts that are reportedly "in line with what the department was expecting."
However, if the "super congress," a 12-member bipartisan group of House and Senate members, ends up deadlocked on a debt reduction package, the act would automatically trigger additional cuts well in excess of $600 billion over 10 years. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned, "This outcome would be completely unacceptable to me as Secretary of Defense, the president, and to our nation's leaders."
Few lawmakers want to impose indiscriminate cuts on the Department of Defense, but both Democrats and Republicans agree that the defense budget is bloated and should be reduced to deal with the country's deficit and debt woes. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, however, doesn't want to see any cuts. And he makes his case by setting up an entirely unrealistic scenario: by explaining to Gaffney that the cuts would severely hamper our ability to, among other things, assist Israel in the event of an invasion.
HUNTER: And as you look around the world and what's happening right now, you know, you look at the Arab Spring, you look at what's happening in Europe, you look at the economies throughout the world, things, things look more chaotic, they don't look less chaotic. And that's where the United States is going to have to reach out and protect our own interests throughout the world, and we're not going to be able to do it if we have these massive budget cuts. Here's what we're going to have to tell the American people, we're going to have to say: Look, if you want the military cut, here's the missions we can't do. We can't go to Israel, if they get invaded. We can't go to South Korea, if North Korea acts out against them. We can't go to Haiti if they have an earthquake. We can't go to Japan if they have another nuclear meltdown. And we want the American people, we have to be able to say hey you need to realize if we cut, then our mission and our international role is going to be greatly diminished because we're simply not going to have the wherewithal to go out and do the things we've always done, the things that we need to do.
This is the second time in as many weeks that a House Republican has gone on Gaffney's program to spew nonsense about proposed budget cuts to the military. Last Friday, it was Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) who warned Gaffney that defense cuts would embolden our enemies. "They gotta be thinking we're nuts," he said.
As Winslow T. Wheeler, an expert with the Center for Defense Information, explains, "the 'doomsday mechanism' would reduce the Pentagon's 'base' (non-war) budget to about $472 billion, the approximate level of the base DOD budget in 2007." "At the 2007 — $472 billion — level," he goes on to explain, "our defense budget would remain multiples of those of China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba and any other potential adversary — combined." Mind you, none of these potential cuts would impact war funding.
It's important to remember that the "doomsday scenario" will only come about if the super congress fails to reach a deal, something that may very well happen if Republicans like Hunter continue to fight against revenue increases. If Hunter or any other Republican is genuinely worried that the proposed cuts are too much for the DOD to handle, it would be wise of them to push fellow Republicans to call for a balanced debt reduction package.
It should also be noted that Hunter has received generous support from the defense industry, which stands to lose lots of money if the DOD is forced to tighten its belt. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hunter received $132,900 from the defense industry in the last election cycle, "making these interests the largest backers of his campaign."
It's unlikely that Israel would be any less protected by the U.S. if defense spending went back to 2007 levels. Israel boasts one of the strongest militaries in the world and perhaps the most formidable force in the entire the Middle East. In the rare event that something does happen and Israel's security is threatened, there is little doubt that we could afford to assist one of our closest allies, just as we were able to in 2007.
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