The Mitt Romney camp has been trying its best to keep its focus on jobs, economic growth and the president’s policies that have impaired the recovery. But on Friday the Romney campaign went slightly off topic to comment on the House Republicans’ passage of an alternative spending reduction package to spare national security from sequestration cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called “devastating.” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul had this comment on the House action:
With the Administration threatening to veto the House bill, President Obama is trying to force $500 billion in additional defense budget cuts that his own Defense Secretary has called ‘devastating’ to our national security. Gov. Romney believes that position is the height of irresponsibility. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has warned, it will result in the ‘hollowing’ out of America’s military, compromising our ability to maintain the peace and preserve our interests. The President is the Commander in Chief. Gov. Romney believes the President should take the lead in identifying reductions elsewhere in the budget to avoid these cuts, not threaten to veto responsible efforts to do so. Unfortunately, the only part of the budget that President Obama has been all too willing to cut is our military.
That’s the most forceful and well-drafted comment on national security to come out of the Romney camp for some time. As national security guru Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute put it: “As the president proclaimed in his January defense guidance, he has walked away from the traditional ‘two-war’ standard of military strength, the measure of U.S. capability throughout the 20th century.” The president is also piling additional burdens and costs on our fighting men and women and their families. Fewer troops meaning longer deployments, for example. I think it was then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) who made a show of visiting the troops and demanding they get body armor and everything they needed to fight. That spirit did not survive the election.
In a statement on Wednesday, House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reminded us: “This sequester was never intended to be policy. It was meant to be something both parties wished to avoid, in order to motivate members of the supercommittee to work together.” They went on to explain:
Although defense spending accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget, half of the deficit reduction efforts to date have come out of defense.
Obama administration officials have testified that sequestration could break the back of a military stretched thin by three years of cuts and ten years of war.
Sequestration would force the greatest Armed Forces in history to its knees, resulting in the smallest Army since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1916, and the smallest Air Force in our history.
We would risk ceding our special role in world affairs to countries such as Russia and China, who are both vastly expanding their military power.
We would risk breaking faith with our all-volunteer military, reneging on sacred promises made to care for the health and well-being of our troops and our veterans.
We would risk the gains made against global terrorism and risk our ability to prevent another September 11th attack.
And we would tacitly accept what our military leadership calls an extraordinary and unacceptable degree of danger in a strategically uncertain and perilous time.
In addition to this threat to our national security, the sequester would also impose deep cuts to programs like the National Institutes of Health and border security, squeezing critical priorities while letting entitlement spending remain on autopilot.
It’s hard to remember, but once upon a time Democrats complained that too much was being taken out of discretionary spending to the detriment of popular programs such as basic scientific research.
Now, the president doesn’t quibble with the impact of his cuts. He didn’t fire Panetta, so presumably he doesn’t think his defense secretary misled Congress on the severity of the cuts. He is just not willing to do anything about it. (I know, shocking, isn’t it, that our president wouldn’t want to lead on a critical issue?)
The president’s studied disinterest in the topic is disturbing. House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) hit the nail on the head in a written statement when he said, “Unfortunately, the President and his party seem to be choosing to sit idly by and let the devastating cuts in the sequester take effect, rather than putting forward a plan of their own or supporting ours. The House has offered a plan to protect our troops and maintain a robust defense community, and now the Senate must do the same.”
Don’t bet on it. I suspect that in order to come to a reasonable level of defense spending commensurate with our national security needs we’ll need a new president. This one is only interested in using our military for his own photo-ops and victory laps.