Military Cutbacks In Crosshairs of Congressional Deficit Reduction Plans

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by Ed Mattson

 

Congress is at it again. No doubt the degree of urgency is greater this time around because of the unsustainable federal debt, but it is something we as veterans, military, and freedom-loving Americans, had better understand.

In November, 2010, former Senator, Alan Simpson (R), co-chairman of the Obama Debt Commission, and respected Democrat (from the Clinton era), Erskine Bowles, presented the committee’s budget assessment and a checklist of suggested cuts that would trim $4 trillion dollars from the US Budget deficit over the next decade. Failure to do so, was the warning, there would be a collapse of the US dollar and the entire economy as we would be forced to default on our country’s financial obligations.

This is not “rocket science”, as every person in America should know. As individual citizens we are forced to live within our own personal budgets, or we end-up bankrupt. It is hard to imagine the government not understanding this simple fact of life. As a country we are facing more than $14 trillion in debt, with another $61.6 trillion in unfunded future mandates. This is insane.

It boils down to the fact that every man, women and child, carries a debt burden of more than a half million dollars (estimated at $534,000)

“In 2015, the estimated interest due – $533 billion – is expected to be a third of the federal income taxes paid that year”, said Charles Konigsberg, chief budget counsel of the Concord Coalition, a deficit watchdog group. Interest payments alone on the federal debt are expected to be $4.8 trillion over the next ten years. This is totally unsustainable.

Why is this important to the military and veterans? We are right in the cross-hairs of the Debt Commission budget-cut recommendations. Being the fiscal conservative that I am, I can understand the need to bring the US financial house under control. There is no doubt the entire budget is unsustainable, but we’ve been down this road before and sometimes politicians, looking at their re-election agenda, are not the brightest bulbs in the lamp when it comes to budget cutting. As a matter of fact, you can’t even find those words in what I call in the congressional dictionary, however, the Simpson Committee did a very credible job in laying out what needs to be done.

The military, has three on-going war-time engagements (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya), and more than 175,000 troops stationed in about 150 countries around the world, many of whom are still in locations that were necessary during the cold war. The US spends an estimated 43% of the world’s military expenditures.

Why do we need more than 50,000 troops Germany, 10,000 in the UK, nearly 10,000 in Italy, 32,000 in Japan, and 28,000 in South Korea? Surely this would be an attractive target for some cutbacks. Shouldn’t these countries  be responsible for their own security?

The same reasoning could then be used to scrutinize the Navy’s 313-Ship Plan by the year 2020. No doubt the need for 10-11 aircraft carriers as we have seen how valuable they are in carrying the battle to the enemy and providing global security, but how about the other countries stepping to the plate! All of the defense items need closer analysis, but compensation for those troops who keep us safe, should never get near the chopping block of Congress. Our troops don’t get paid enough…never have…never will.

Alan K. Simpson (R), Chairman of the Obama Budget Deficit Commission

A better bet would be to cut to pieces (even eliminate) such useless federal departments at Department of Energy…remember those folks? Started in 1977 under Jimmy Carter to solve our dependence on imported energy, yet today with 16,000 employees, we are still not energy independent, and can’t drill in known fertile oil producing areas of the country (only 8 drilling permits have been issued since March 2011).

DOE is simply a typical bureaucratic boondoggle growing like “The Blob”, mired in a maze of inefficiency, conflicting rules and regulations, costing business billions of dollars every year in legal fees. As to its effectiveness… we’ve gone from importing 22% of our needs in 1976 to over 75% of our needs in 2010.

Over the next few columns we will look at some of the commission’s recommendations, particularly the cuts in military spending.

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Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina. Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.