Sequester: Politics of Inaction

As an avid reader of Defense News, the Armed Forces Journal and other defense-related publications, I followed the lead up to sequester while most in Congress and media were raging about debt ceilings and fiscal cliffs last year.

Sequester hits almost every federal agency, as we’ve seen. While this can be seen domestically, it is most obvious in defense cuts.

I’m certain many of my liberal friends will shout, “Good! We should defund them even more and apply the money to domestic purposes!” That argument is not wholly without merit. But I have repeatedly documented the real reason for our bloated defense budget: Congress. The Department of Defense asks for far less money than it receives. Politicians need pork. Even former Rep. Ron Paul, that hero of anti-pork, bare-bones government, was no vegetarian. I am completely in favor of cutting real, unhealthy fat in the defense budget (and throughout government) and appropriating it to domestic programs or, say, the Department of State. But sequester doesn’t differentiate. It doesn’t just take off the fat, it takes a nice bite out of the good, well-prepared steak.

Politics drives sequester just as it drives war-making. To push the cliché, sequester is politics by inaction. And, given the current deadlock in D.C., there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. (I’m sure there is one, we’re just still too far away to see it.)

To be honest, I think the following quotes are the least offensive we could use right now in describing D.C.’s attention to our domestic and foreign security:

. . . [A] political objective held by Republicans and Democrats to “screw” the other party, means another sequester cut starting Oct. 1 is likely.

“Sequester is like a [base-closure round] for the defense budget,” said former Clinton White House defense budget official Gordon Adams. “Everyone gets to blame everyone else. The Republicans can blame the White House. And the White House can blame the Republicans.

“No one is legislating to sequester spending levels. We’re moving toward another continuing resolution and appropriations bills that can’t be conferenced, then a debt-ceiling fight, then another sequester,” said Adams, now with the Stimson Center. “Didn’t we just go to this movie? It’s beginning to look like ‘Groundhog Day.’ ”

Winslow Wheeler, a former senior Senate aide now with the Project on Government Oversight, was more blunt about what’s holding up the kind of “grand bargain” fiscal deal that would lessen or replace the remaining nearly $1 trillion in cuts to planned defense and domestic spending.

“The Republicans are focused on screwing the president,” Wheeler said. “And Obama is focused on screwing them right back.

“The blame goes both ways — just like the finger-pointing on sequestration,” Wheeler said. “Congress is focused on their next primary and re-election campaign. They’re scared about the political consequences of moving first on a ‘grand bargain’ deal.”

I am an advocate of smart defense spending. That is, a process in which our political leaders actually address the needs expressed by our military leaders. (Something both sides routinely accuse the other of not doing.) We certainly need civilian oversight. Obviously. But politics and pork shouldn’t be the standard operating procedure, as it has been for far too long.

I’m certain this is exactly the wrong time to advocate for any defense spending given the current scandals, but we have to focus on more than one thing at a time. We expect the same and more from our soldiers.

A couple of other tidbits:

You may be surprised to learn that the government is saving money in one place: spying on you.

[T]he government is doing this for $20 million? That’s amazing. Forget a scandal- this is a stunning success story of a government program!

. . .

So look on the bright side. The government may be keeping tabs on all your data… but at least it’s getting a good deal.

In what has to be one of the most insensitive stories I’ve read in a while, the final quote is:

“On the one hand, there is need for immediate replenishments and on the other, politically speaking, gassing [protesters] has proved to be an instrument that is politically risky,” (a Turkish security official) said.

No shit.

Have a good weekend.

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