"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates above Afghanistan"

"Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates above Afghanistan" by The US Army on flickr

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta effectively told Congress to raise taxes and cut Social Security and Medicare before taking another swipe at the Pentagon budget beyond defense cuts already called for in the debt-ceiling deal – about $350 billion over 10 years — because further cuts “would have dire consequences”.  He fears the special committee that meets this fall to recommend $1.5 trillion in additional deficit-reduction measures will look at Defense for some of those cuts.

Meanwhile Bloomberg  reports the same news but reminds us that the former Sec of Defense, Bob Gates, discussed a hundred billion a year of cuts, and his report then discussed a 10 year reduction of $825 billion – or something less than 10% in reductions after a 92% increase over 1998 levels of defense spending.

So the number of unneeded $110 million a piece F-35 fighter jets to the $9 billion in subsidies for the Defense Commissary Agency, are on the block. The debt limit bill requires $325 billion reduction in the defense budget in the first phase over 10 years ($28 billion from the 2012 budget request). And the trigger kicks in another $500 billion over the next decade, for a total of $825 billion, or the amount Gates planned to cut anyway.

But Obama has replaced the defense cutting GOP holdover Secretary Gates with true Democrat Panetta so most of the cuts are now not supported by Obama.

Alan Simpson wanted to excise a few programs for all of $31.2 billion in weapons cuts.  Indeed just staying out of war plus these program cuts is a 18 percent decline in nominal terms or 34 percent in constant dollars in the Simpson Plan (Obama adds back $50 billion annually for conflicts through to 2021). But if we cut our manpower of 1.43 million active duty military personnel, including 570,719 in the Army, 335,038 in the Air Force, 328,227 in the Navy and 201,466 in the Marine Corps, where do they get jobs? We only save $1 billion per every 10,000 reduction in troop count.  Still, the Gates manpower cuts of 27,000 (Army) starting in 2015 and 20,000 (Marines) could be higher. A benefit cut has been suggested by an Obama panel but in classic Obama he leaks that he may shy away from the panel’s idea of ending pensions being given at 20 years because “it reduces benefits”.

But do we really need planes we do not use in combat like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a $382 billion program, when simply replacing it with Lockhead’s modern version of the F-16 plane saves $47.9 billion? Can we cut the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle developed by General Dynamics Corp. (GD) for the Marine Corps that Gates wanted to cut?  How about the V-22 Osprey, the Marine Corps tilt-rotor aircraft that does not work well and which could be replaced by Sikorsky’s MH-60 Black Hawks at a savings of $12 billion. Gates suggested our aircraft carrier fllet of 11 could be cut, and “overhead”, all those program managers, could be reduced to save $120 billion.  Indeed Gates identified $212 billion in the 2010 fiscal year – but Obama/Panetta say just going above $35 billion a year in cuts per year average would “have dire consequences,”

Something is wrong when the Republican Defense Secretary is to the left of the Democratic President on defense cuts.