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Defense analyst challenges claims in sequestration story

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To the Editor,

Tim Loughran’s October article, “Peering over the fiscal cliff,” contains numerous factual errors, and I feel compelled to respond.

Loughran cites Veronique de Rugy’s numbers and graph supposedly showing that defense spending would still grow under sequestration, “recovering” to its Fiscal Year 2012 level in a few years and growing to even higher numbers by FY2022. These claims are wrong.

None of the reports cited by de Rugy in her graph backs up her numbers or says to what levels defense spending would be cut, should sequestration proceed. That question was dealt with by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in its report from July 2012, “Long-term Implications of the 2013 Future Years Defense Program,” whose Table 1-4 (shown here) gives budgetary numbers for each year of
the sequestration decade.

The report proves that under sequestration, core defense spending would be cut to just $469 billion in January (down from $531 billion today) and not recover to today’s level for the entire decade. In FY2022, the last year of the sequestration decade, defense spending would still stand at a paltry $493 billion (in inflation-adjusted terms), well below today’s level and not even close to the numbers de Rugy claims. (War funding, or Overseas Contingency Operations, would be sequestrated simultaneously.)

Including military items outside the Department of Defense, such as the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapon programs (also subject to sequestration), does not change these facts. If they’re included in later years’ figures, they must also be included in today’s.

And even without sequestration, defense spending would still be cut in real terms to $521 billion in January, not recovering to today’s level until FY2018, and then growing very slowly, the CBO report says.
These numbers mean that de Rugy’s chart and the numbers she claims are factually wrong by a long shot. The CBO produced a correct chart depicting these scenarios in July. It’s available at:
http://zbigniewmazurak.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/defensebudgetaccordingtothecbo2.png

The “reprogramming” option mentioned in the article (citing “Wiggle Room for Cuts,” an August report in CQ Weekly) is no solution. Reprogramming only means shifting funding from one defense program to another (e.g., from shipbuilding to bombers). It essentially means robbing Peter to pay Paul. It doesn’t change the fact that the overall amount of funding available for defense will be dramatically cut.

Furthermore, excepting very small amounts, it requires the consent of four separate congressional committees, which analysts such as the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments’ Todd Harrison
consider unlikely.

And contrary to Mr. Loughran’s claim, Congress cannot use war funding to blunt sequestration’s effect on the base defense budget, because war funding is also subject to sequestration (i.e., to the sequester’s lower, strict budget caps).

Under sequestration, Congress cannot increase war funding any more than it could increase base defense spending. The Department of Defense has already said that, if sequestration happens, it will actually have to raid base defense accounts even more deeply than would otherwise be the case, just to pay all war bills, because war funding levels would be inadequate under sequestration.

Thus, instead of being used to save base defense programs, war funding, itself sequestered, will drain even more funds from the base defense budget until the Afghan war ends.
Mr. Loughran’s and Ms. de Rugy’s claims are completely wrong.

Zbigniew Mazurak, Norfolk

Mazurak is a defense analyst and blogger. He has contributed more than 30 articles on defense and foreign policy to the American Thinker, Conservatives4Palin and other conservative publications and websites. His first book, “In Defense of US Defense Spending,” is available on Kindle. His second book, “America’s Role in the World,” is forthcoming.

Original story: http://www.virginiabusiness.com/index.php/news/article/peering-over-the-fiscal-cliff/


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