Never mind that the Republicans are, as Jon Stewart said, turning a “suicide pact” into a “murder pact.” Is this fear-mongering warranted? Will the looming cuts to the Pentagon’s budget really threaten our security?
Not according to many experts on both sides of the aisle. The nuclear policy group Global Zero released a report this month recommending a significant reduction in our nation’s nuclear arms arsenal. Signatories included such liberal pacifists as former Republican senator Chuck Hagel and Gen. James E. Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and nuclear forces commander.
Republican Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), a former presidential candidate, has argued that the doubling of military spending in the past decade “should be extremely troubling for those claiming to be fiscally conservative.” In 2010, Paul joined Democratic Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) to convene a Sustainable Defense Task Force, which identified $1 trillion in defense cuts over 10 years.
Earlier this year the Pentagon itself proposed slowing the growth of its budget by stretching out its purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, reducing ground forces, and eliminating obsolete or troubled programs. Ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq and Afghanistan will also save $44 billion a year after 2013.
At $700 billion, annual U.S. defense spending represents 57 percent of the federal government’s discretionary budget and last year accounted for 41 percent of all global military spending.
Even with the proposed cuts, U.S. military spending would still be the highest in the world by an order of magnitude. “The additional $500 billion in cuts is entirely responsible,” Matthew Leatherman, an analyst with the Stimson Center, an independent public policy group, wrote recently, “even if the [sequestration] process is not.”
Despite the GOP’s overblown rhetoric about security, the American people haven’t been fooled. In a recent survey, the Stimson Center, the Program on Public Consultation and the Center for Public Integrity found that after receiving detailed information and arguments on both sides of the issue, the average American favors cutting the defense budget by 18 percent.