Writing in the pages of the WSJ, former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld sounds a cautionary note to his next-but-one successor:
Our country has taken an ax to our national security budget—both the Defense Department and the intelligence community—after every war of the 20th century. And every time we later regretted it. After years of grinding conflict, it can be easy to fall prey to the comfortable fiction that the ugly business of conflict is over and that the U.S. can reduce its military and intelligence capabilities. If we revert to the pennywise policies of the 1990s, we are certain to have to once again scramble to rebuild our defenses in the future. The critical difference between today and past eras, however, is that the proliferation of biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons means that America’s margin for error is considerably more modest.
Defense spending is now 19% of federal outlays and declining. This is the lowest percentage since before World War II. At 4.7% of GDP, the defense budget is dwarfed by the cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which exceed 10% of GDP. Even if President Obama tomorrow brought home each and every troop in Iraq and Afghanistan, tore down the Pentagon, shuttered the CIA and the national security agencies of government, and pink-slipped the three million men and women defending the country, it would not solve America’s financial woes.
Rumsfeld should know whereof he speaks: He came to office in 2001 ruminating about “skipping a generation” of weapon systems acquisitions, and was left a very short time later regretting the necessity of going to war “with the army you have.”
Out in the private economy, defense contractors are left to calculate their own bottom lines:
The aeronautics unit of Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales, said on Thursday that it plans to cut about 1,500 jobs to reduce costs in response to a flattening of U.S. defense spending.
Lockheed cut 1,200 jobs in its space systems equipment division two weeks ago.
Perhaps they can all be re-purposed to those “green” jobs that the president tells us are right around the corner.
Or are they shovel-ready?
I can never keep them straight.