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Mon Jan 21, 2013, 06:32 PM

How much military is enough?

BY JILL LEPORE

Sixty-two legislators sit on the House Armed Services Committee, the largest committee in Congress. Since January, 2011, when Republicans took control of the House, the committee has been chaired by Howard P. McKeon, who goes by Buck. He has never served in the military, but this month he begins his third decade representing California’s Twenty-fifth Congressional District, the home of a naval weapons station, an Army fort, an Air Force base, and, for the Marines, a place to train for mountain warfare. McKeon believes that it’s his job to protect the Pentagon from budget cuts. On New Year’s Day, after a thirteenth-hour deal was sealed with spit in the Senate, McKeon issued a press statement lamenting that the compromise had failed to “shield a wartime military from further reductions.”

The debate about taxes is over, which is one of the few good things that can be said for it. The debate about spending, which has already proved narrow and grubby, is pending.

The United States spends more on defense than all the other nations of the world combined. Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis. The 2011 Budget Control Act, which raised the debt ceiling and created both the fiscal cliff and a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was supposed to find a way to steer clear of it, required four hundred and eighty-seven billion dollars in cuts to military spending, spread over the next ten years. The cliff-fall mandates an additional defense-budget reduction of fifty-five billion dollars annually. None of these cuts have gone into effect. McKeon has been maneuvering to hold the line.

In the fall of 2011, McKeon convened a series of hearings on “The Future of National Defense and the United States Military Ten Years After 9/11.” The first hearing was held on September 8th, the same day as, and down the hall from, the first meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which is known as the Supercommittee. It was no one’s finest hour. By the time McKeon gavelled his meeting to order, just after ten in the morning, only seventeen members of the House Armed Services Committee (five Democrats and twelve Republicans) had shown up to hear the three former heads of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who had been called to testify. Congressional attendance lies, ordinarily, somewhere between spotty and lousy. In committees, roll is generally called only if there’s a vote, and, despite pressure for reform, attendance isn’t even recorded except on “gavel sheets,” compiled by staffers, which are said to be unreliable. In short, it’s easy for lawmakers to skip meetings in which there’s little to be decided. In any case, the point of the Armed Services Committee hearings wasn’t really to debate the future of the American military; it was to give the Department of Defense the chance to argue against the automatic, across-the-board cuts that were scheduled to go into effect this month if the Supercommittee failed to reach a compromise.


Much much more: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2013/01/28/130128crat_atlarge_lepore

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 06:40 PM

1. this is why we can't have nice things

cause we're always going around blowing things up and creating enemies. I'm not even gonna touch the healthcare fucking we get.

Meanwhile, Communist China is out there building roads, schools and hospitals.

Who do you think gets the citizens vote of support?

By citizens, I mean of other countries.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 06:54 PM

2. Hagel will cut the contractor waste.

Nam vets do not go into war lightly or for any long length of time.

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Response to pwb (Reply #2)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 07:01 PM

3. He will try--but look at Panetta doing his best to preserve the Pentagon's budget.

There will be significant pushback, from military, defense contractors AND Congressmen and women. No one will want THEIR program or THEIR base on the chopping block. My expectations aren't very high.

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Response to TwilightGardener (Reply #3)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 07:28 PM

5. Panetta was already pushing for fixed price contracts versus cost-plus.

That will end overly optimistic underbid contracts.

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Response to tammywammy (Reply #5)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 07:38 PM

6. Yeah, but then I believe he's one of those voices warning of

an upcoming "hollowed-out force" if steep cuts happen. Steep cuts do need to happen, but nobody wants to face that.

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Response to TwilightGardener (Reply #6)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 09:18 PM

7. I agree with cuts

But I highly disagree with sequestration. Cuts shouldn't be done with a hatchet, which is what sequestration is. I believe that's the lazy way out by saying 'cut everything 10%', not to mention the contractual obligations and resulting penalties that will only be passed onto the government. I don't think this current strategy of sequestration will actually save any money in the long run. But going through and identifying cuts program by program, whether it's 10% or 30% or whatever is the smart approach. Also the move to fixed price vs cost-plus is smart. Scalpel vs hatchet. I also see defense contractors already recognizing the change in US defense acquisition and changing their own focus to incorporate fixed price to doing more foreign military sales, so that they're not so reliant on the US being their number one source of revenue. Also I will say I've seen significant down sizing in the defense contractor world from top down removing excess management layers, which in turn make them a leaner and more cost efficient company.

I think Hagel will be a good replacement for Panetta.

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Response to tammywammy (Reply #7)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 09:43 PM

8. I agree that sequestration is not the way to cut--it was supposed to be a negative

consequence to be avoided. In fairness to Panetta, he was concerned with that "hatchet" and on the uncertainty of the budget affecting planning, most of all. I also agree that the defense contracting world is dramatically shrinking--my husband worked for a time on a contractor project that was being ended, so he was hired as a temp to help finish it out, and everyone in his office was scrambling to put out resumes and get picked up for another contract or find a different contractor. He gave up on the defense industry and civil service in our (military/defense-heavy) area after that (he's a retired officer). Everyone is bracing for a big downsizing, they've seen it coming for a couple years now, really.

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Response to TwilightGardener (Reply #8)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 11:24 PM

9. I work for a defense contractor....

The worst part about sequestration and the kick the can down the road approach, is that everyone continues working on schedule, but we never know if layoffs are coming. Should I move to another "stable" program that's already funded for another year or should I stay on this development program? And even if you move to the stable program, if layoffs come they could still cut you to move someone else in there. I should be okay though. The company I work for has been streamlining for years offering voluntary early retirement to people. At least they're not just cutting worker bees.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Mon Jan 21, 2013, 07:25 PM

4. when our economy is in the dumpster, our infrastructure is failing along with our educational system

 

I'd say it's a big hint that our military is to big. We're not number one anymore and this is a big reason why. It's time we prioritize and more war for corporate profit shouldn't be on top of the list.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Tue Jan 22, 2013, 01:02 PM

10. Paranoia can be expensive.

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