The US Congressional “supercommittee” charged to produce a workable federal budget deadlocked, as many predicted it would. The supercommitee’s failure means that large automatic across-the-board budget cuts to all US government programs and departments, including the military, will be triggered in 2013 unless Congress somehow pulls an agreeable compromise budget out of a hat in 2012. But Congress already showed that it cannot pass a budget. That’s why it instead created the supercommittee, with the threat of automatic budget cuts — called “sequestration” — as a backup plan. Well, the backup plan is now in effect, and we all get to watch the sequestration train as it approaches the budget schoolbus stuck on the tracks.
How is the Pentagon, facing the possibility of an automatic $500 billion reduction in its budget, reacting? “Panic” is the best word to describe it. Some analysts have called the looming automatic budget cuts the “Pentagon’s Worst Nightmare“. Sharing the Pentagon’s nightmare are the many defense contractors who profit from excessive military spending: no one wants their weapons program to be cut, whether the country actually needs it or not.
Threats and fear mongering are the tactics that the Pentagon and its money-guzzling suppliers are using to tilt public opinion away from deep military budget cuts.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (formerly CIA Director) calls large cuts to the military budget “completely unacceptable to me” and has vowed to “fight to make sure that hopefully some common sense prevails”.
However, what common sense dictates is that the US military budget be cut, soon, drastically, and permanently. Even the New York Times argues for reducing the military budget drastically.
Contrary to what the fear-mongers argue, cutting the military budget will not put US troops at risk, because their mission will be drastically reduced. They will actually be safer than they now are because they will be brought home in large numbers — home from fruitless and counterproductive wars, and home from unnecessary, imperialistic overseas bases. Fewer troops will die, fewer will be wounded, and fewer will suffer psychological trauma.
Military leaders such as Panetta and his generals have no say in the matter. Contrary to what Panetta may say, the leaders of the US military, including him and others in the Pentagon, are not policymakers. They only carry out policies. They don’t get to decide when and where the US wages war or establishes and maintains bases. Congress and the President decide that. The military’s role is simply to carry out policies and military campaigns that they are directed to carry out.
If we ask them to do a lot, they need a big budget to do it. If we don’t ask them to do much, then a small budget is enough. Our national goal should be to rely on the military as little as possible.
Finally, military contractors — companies that supply arms, equipment, and services to the military — have no legitimate standing whatsoever in policy discussions. They have a vested interest in huge military budgets and in having the US wage perpetual war on much of the rest of the world. Their judgement is heavily biased, rendering their advice unreliable.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has produced a “People’s Budget” that resolves all of the issues that the Congressional Supercommittee was supposed to resolve. It cuts the military budget and redirects the savings toward domestic needs. It is supported by many leading political figures and economists. Former President Bill Clinton called it “The most comprehensive alternative to the budgets passed by the House Republicans and recommended by the Simpson-Bowles Commission”.
Similarly, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, together with the National Priorities Project, produced a report on how the US can have a sustainable defensive (not offensive) program at an affordable cost: “Debts, Deficits, and Defense: A Way Forward“.
If we can convince policymakers that The People’s Budget and the FCNL/NPP report have broad support, provisions from them could be included in whatever budget compromise Congress hammers out, even if they don’t adopt them in full.
Here are five things you can do in 2012 to support reducing the military budget:
- Read the FCNL/NPP report: “ Debts, Deficits, and Defense: A Way Forward“
- Read the “People’s Budget (summary)” [or the complete budget document (PDF)]
- Voice your preference for the “People’s Budget” in an online poll
- Write your Sentators and congressional representatives, urging them to support the People’s Budget and the FCNL/NPP report
- Write letters to the editor of your local paper, supporting the People’s Budget and the FCNL/NPP report