One might think that the language of dire pain coming out of Washington last week would have been sufficient to steel our elected officials for the hard work of figuring out how to reverse their collective rectal/cranial inversion. Instead, everyone left town (though the President is back).
For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been waving the red flag over my sense that DoD has become blatantly politicized by an Administration wishing to use it as a cudgel to achieve its broader policy goals, primarily that of additional revenue. Additionally, there can be no question that the pure joy of appearing more pro-defense than the House Republican Caucus is good for several smiles a day in the White House Press Corps briefing room. This battle is a two-fer for the White House, and in the process, they have hung the Service Chiefs out to dry–men who wittingly or unwittingly (I cannot say for sure) resisted what every bone in their body told them was the right thing to do (plan for the unthinkable).
It’s been an open secret for months that the White House has prohibited DoD and the services from making any plans to deal with sequestration budget cuts.
As a practical matter, the only place in the DoD budget to make cuts is in the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budget. And since we’re about halfway through the Fiscal Year, the effect of cutting the budget by $8.6 billion is vastly amplified, because there is only about $20 billion remaining in that budget.
That raises the other disaster that is rapidly approaching the DoD- the Continuing Resolution. The CR, which basically hands the services money, but only based on past budgets, gives the Pentagon no authority to shift money from one account to another. It’s forcing the services to go through what should be a fairly mild cash crunch wearing a straight jacket, with near catastrophic short term impacts, and deep and lingering long term impacts.
Having said that, I’m in the “let it burn” camp.
Yes, sequestration and the CR will have terrible effects on the DoD. But failure to ever begin to reign in federal spending, somewhere, somehow, will all too soon render the country unworthy of defense.