The new Defense Guidance document: Cuts for the military, but humanity still hangs from a cross of iron.

January 6, 2012 

January 17, 2012 will mark the 51st anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhowerʻs famous farewell speech, in which he presciently warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex.  Last year on the 50th anniversary of the speech, Andrew Bacevich wrote “The Tyranny of Defense Inc.,” an excellent reflection on the evolution of Eisenhowerʻs thinking and the costs of war and militarism.  Early in his presidency on April 16, 1953, Eisenhower delivered his other famous “Cross of Iron” speech to the Association of Newspaper Editors.  As Bacevich writes:

Separated in time by eight years, the two speeches are complementary: to consider them in combination is to discover their full importance. As bookends to Eisenhower’s presidency, they form a solemn meditation on the implications—economic, social, political, and moral—of militarizing America.


“Every gun that is made,” Eisenhower told his listeners, “every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money. “It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Eisenhowerʻs farewell speech sounded a grave warning after two terms witnessing and wrestling with the hyper-militarization of the U.S.:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Recently, the power and corrosive effect of the military-industrial complex has been on display in the political struggle to cut the military budget.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was poised to reveal a plan that would change U.S. military doctrine and reduce the size of the military:

In a shift of doctrine driven by fiscal reality and a deal last summer that kept the United States from defaulting on its debts, Mr. Panetta is expected to outline plans for carefully shrinking the military — and in so doing make it clear that the Pentagon will not maintain the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at once.

Instead, he will say that the military will be large enough to fight and win one major conflict, while also being able to “spoil” a second adversary’s ambitions in another part of the world while conducting a number of other smaller operations, like providing disaster relief or enforcing a no-flight zone.

Pentagon officials, in the meantime, are in final deliberations about potential cuts to virtually every important area of military spending: the nuclear arsenal, warships, combat aircraft, salaries, and retirement and health benefits. With the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, Mr. Panetta is weighing how significantly to shrink America’s ground forces.

There is broad agreement on the left, right and center that $450 billion in cuts over a decade — the amount that the White House and Pentagon agreed to last summer — is acceptable. That is about 8 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget. But there is intense debate about an additional $500 billion in cuts that may have to be made if Congress follows through with deeper reductions.

Mr. Panetta and defense hawks say a reduction of $1 trillion, about 17 percent of the Pentagon’s base budget, would be ruinous to national security. Democrats and a few Republicans say that it would be painful but manageable; they add that there were steeper military cuts after the Cold War and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

But government budget and accountability watchdog groups immediately criticized the proposals as being misleading and inadequate to meet the requirements of fiscal responsibility. The Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense issued a press release that stated “Panetta Ignoring More than $100 Billion in Potential Defense Savings”:

When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reveals his strategy to “rebalance” defense priorities with decreasing funds tomorrow; he will likely miss several opportunities to cut wasteful spending from the bloated Pentagon budget.

That’s because the review only accounts for $450 billion in savings over the next decade as required by last year’s debt ceiling negotiations. But a recent report from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) found the federal government could save $586 billion over the same period by cutting unneeded weapons, reining in out-of-control private contracts, moving our nuclear arsenal to a post-Cold War footing, reforming the military health care system, and reducing the number of U.S. troops in Europe.

The report, titled “Spending Less, Spending Smarter,” gives the Department of Defense (DoD) concrete ideas on how to strengthen our national security by cutting wasteful spending. You can find a copy of the report on the POGO and TCS websites.

On Thursday, President Obama released his new military guidance document “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.”

The Washington Post reported:

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, and other officials, announced a strategy shift towards Asia and said budget issues will require more restrained use of military force.

The U.S. military will steadily shrink the Army and Marine Corps, reduce forces in Europe and probably make further cuts to the nation’s nuclear arsenal, the Obama administration said Thursday in a preview of how it intends to reshape the armed forces after a decade of war.The downsizing of the Pentagon, prompted by the country’s dire fiscal problems, means that the military will depend more on coalitions with allies and avoid the large-scale counterinsurgency and nation-building operations that have marked the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, the Pentagon will invest more heavily in Special Operations forces, which have a smaller footprint and require less money than conventional units, as well as drone aircraft and cybersecurity, defense officials said. The military will also shift its focus to Asia to counter China’s rising influence and North Korea’s unpredictability. Despite the end of the Iraq war, administration officials said they would keep a large presence in the Middle East, where tensions with Iran are worsening.

But these so-called cuts are not really a reduction:

Although Pentagon officials have portrayed those cuts as painful, Obama said the defense budget is still expected to increase slightly — at about the rate of inflation — each year for the next decade.

The cuts may not alleviate the pressures to expand bases in the Asia-Pacific region:

Obama insisted that any cuts to the military will not come at the expense of an expanding U.S. presence in Asia, which he dubbed a “critical region.” To pay for those increases, the strategy suggests a need for significant cuts to the size of U.S. military ground forces in Europe, which has been a major Army operation for decades.

Panetta also delivered a speech in which he underscored the shift in strategy to the Pacific.

The same day as Obamaʻs speech, military, business and political leaders attending the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii Military Partnership Luncheon, celebrated that the U.S. was committed to militarization of the Pacific.  As Chad Blair reported in the Civil Beat:

But Hawaii’s unique position smack in the middle of the Asia-Pacific theater likely guarantees that federal money will continue to flow to the islands. As Obama himself said in announcing the new defense strategy, “As I made clear in Australia, we will be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of that critical region.”

The Pacific and its many rim countries cover a vast geographical region. But, as Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command made clear, there are only three locations for America to “project its power outward” — Japan, the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii.

“You are in a position of advantage and have a very bright future ahead of you,” said Darnell.

Recalling Eisenhowerʻs words from 1953,  “This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

Obama White House “wants to collect six to eight ‘scalps’”?

March 14, 2009 

This article from the right wing Lexington Institute expresses worry that the new administration is looking to cut 6-8 major military programs, including reducing the number of aircraft carriers to 10. It also contains a little snippet that should buoy the anti-bases movement:

There’s only one problem with all this. It reduces the United States’ capacity to project power from the sea at the same time that access to foreign bases is becoming doubtful.

Security Industry

Obama hunts U.S. Navy’s supercarrier force


Published: March 11, 2009 at 10:19 AM

ARLINGTON, Va., March 11 (UPI) — The word within the U.S. Department of Defense is that the White House wants to collect six to eight “scalps” — major program kills — in this year’s Quadrennial Defense Review.

Some of the cuts already are being considered as Defense Secretary Robert Gates rewrites the 2010 budget. You can expect to hear a lot of rumors about which programs are being targeted between now and when the Pentagon releases details of its budget request in April. But while most of the military services are scrambling to protect programs, at least one is getting ready to offer up a signature weapons system. The U.S.. Navy will propose removal of one aircraft carrier and air wing from its posture, dropping the number of carriers to the lowest number since 1942.

Of course, today’s aircraft carriers make World War II carriers look like toys. With nuclear propulsion, supersonic fighters and more than four acres of deck space, they are the biggest warships in history. But at any given time some are being repaired, some are being replenished, some are in training and some are in transit; if the fleet is cut to 10, then maybe half a dozen will be available for quick action on any given day.

The U.S. Congress didn’t think that was enough, so it mandated in law that at least 11 carriers must be maintained in the force. But with big bills coming from the Obama administration and other items like healthcare costs pressuring Navy budgets, the service has repeatedly sought relief from that requirement. This year’s quadrennial review is the likely venue for another such bid.

The issue is coming to a head now because the pace of new carrier commissionings is not keeping up with the rate of retirements. Kitty Hawk, the last carrier in the fleet powered by fossil fuels, was removed from the force last summer after nearly 50 years of service. The Navy plans to decommission the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise in November 2012, leaving the fleet with only the 10 flattops of the Nimitz class for three years, until the next-generation Ford class of carriers debuts in September 2015.

Going to 10 isn’t supposed to happen under present law, but since the service hasn’t made budgetary provisions for maintaining the Enterprise and its crew until the Ford class arrives, it looks like 10 carriers will be the total number in the fleet.

In the current budget environment, once the Navy gets used to having 10 carriers, that’s probably where it will stay. Navy insiders think the service will decide to forgo the nuclear refueling of the USS Lincoln, which is scheduled for 2012. And when the decision to stay at 10 is formalized, the service also can move to eliminate one of its carrier wings.

That step would cut the Navy’s projected shortfall in strike aircraft by half. So billions of dollars are saved by skipping the refueling, cutting the purchase of aircraft, and eliminating the need to sustain 6,000 personnel associated with ship operations and air-wing support.

There’s only one problem with all this. It reduces the United States’ capacity to project power from the sea at the same time that access to foreign bases is becoming doubtful. And why is such a move necessary? Because the Obama administration has decided to stick with Bush-era plans to grow the size of ground forces by 92,000 personnel, and the Navy must pay part of the bill for that.

Yet the administration is getting ready to depart Iraq, which was the main reason for increasing the size of ground forces in the first place. There are precious few other places where the war-fighting scenarios for the next QDR suggest a big ground force will be needed. Most of the scenarios envision reliance on air power for the big fights of the future — the kind of air power delivered by carriers. So cutting carriers to build a bigger ground force doesn’t make much sense.

(Loren B. Thompson is chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank that supports democracy and the free market.)