The Cable

Palin makes exception for military spending

Sarah Palin is fighting an effort to control military spending.
Sarah Palin is fighting an effort to control military spending. (Getty Images - Getty Images)
By Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sarah Palin is waging a battle inside the "tea party" movement to exempt defense spending from the group's small-government, anti-deficit fervor.

There's growing concern among Republicans -- and especially among the pro-defense neoconservative wing of the party -- that national security spending, which is under a level of scrutiny and pressure not seen since the end of the Cold War, could fall victim to the tea party's anti-establishment, anti-spending agenda. The former Alaska governor, as the unofficial leader of the movement and its most prominent celebrity, is moving to carve out such funding from any drives to cut overall government expenditures.

"In the conservative ranks and within the party, she's really quite a crucial piece in this puzzle," said Tom Donnelly, a defense fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "She's got both political and tea-party/small-government bona fides, but she also has a lot of credibility in advocating for military strength."

Palin's drive to lead the charge against defense cuts was on display in a June 27 speech at "Freedom Fest," a conservative gathering in Norfolk where she sent a clear message to Republicans that deficit reduction can't come at the military's expense.

"Something has to be done urgently to stop the out-of-control Obama-Reid-Pelosi spending machine, and no government agency should be immune from budget scrutiny," she said. "We must make sure, however, that we do nothing to undermine the effectiveness of our military. If we lose wars, if we lose the ability to deter adversaries, if we lose the ability to provide security for ourselves and for our allies, we risk losing all that makes America great. That is a price we cannot afford to pay."

Palin also took on Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, challenging his drive to rein in procurement spending and reevaluate the need for certain huge weapons systems.

"Secretary Gates recently spoke about the future of the U.S. Navy. He said we have to ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 [billion] to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines and $11 billion carriers. He went on to ask, 'Do we really need . . . more strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?' " Palin said. "Well, my answer is pretty simple: Yes, we can and yes, we do, because we must."

Border cards could be counterfeited

The State Department is issuing cards for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border that may be vulnerable to counterfeiting, according to a new report.

In 2008, the department's Bureau of Consular Affairs took over from the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service the job of producing and issuing passport cards, which Americans can use as a cheaper alternative to passports, and border crossing cards, which are used by Mexican nationals who cross the border regularly.

But the Government Accountability Office said in a report released last Thursday that "State does not fully understand the security and durability of the [U.S. passport] card." Although the department "generally" is following accepted standards and procedures for designing the passport cards, it didn't test the final version -- leaving opportunities for forgery.

The Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection bureau intercepted more than 13,000 fraudulent border crossing cards in 2009. Last July, one month after the cards became mandatory, the DHS's Forensic Document Laboratory informed border patrol officers that counterfeits were appearing at U.S. ports of entry and issued an alert about how to detect fakes.

The lab, which specializes in travel-document fraud, told the GAO that State should use a different material and a higher standard of engraving to make the cards, and put more visible security features on them.

Department officials said they don't think the benefits would be worth the expense.

Clinton aide at State plans to move on

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's director of speechwriting, Lissa Muscatine, will be leaving the State Department, she tells the Cable in an interview.

Muscatine, who runs the shop of scribes who put words in Clinton's mouth every day, is stepping down to pursue her own writing, teaching and speaking opportunities, she said. She has worked for both Clintons off and on since 1993.

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