Republican presidential hopefuls lined up against deep defense cuts during a foreign policy debate that was broadcast by CNN on Tuesday.
Texas governor Rick Perry blamed President Barack Obama for failing to lead the national deficit reduction effort and called it “reprehensible” that he would threaten to veto repeal of a sequester that should cut more than half a trillion dollars in projected defense spending over the next decade.
The failure of a congressional supercommittee tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction could trigger hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to military spending in 2013 although the next legislature could cancel this so-called sequestration.
Defense secretary Leon Panetta has forecast “doomsday” if the sequester cuts were enacted and predicted that the American military would be reduced to little more than a “paper tiger” that “invites aggression.”
An army of barracks, buildings and bombs without enough trained soldiers to be able to accomplish the mission.
“If Leon Panetta is an honorable man,” Perry concluded Tuesday night, “he should resign in protest.”
Ahead of the debate, Jon Huntsman, the former American ambassador to China, in an op-ed for CNN lamented that those of this opponents who would let “draconian across the board cuts” in defense spending guide policy were missing the point.
First, they let resources drive strategy rather than using strategy to drive force structure and capabilities. Second, they fail to fundamentally alter our defense posture — so any short-term savings will be quickly erased.
The challenge, according to Huntsman, is to design the armed forces so that they can respond “swiftly and firmly” to terrorist threats wherever they appear.
He would draw down American troop levels in Afghanistan to between 10- and 15,000 from 100,000 today. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is perceived as the frontrunner in the primary contest, criticized Huntsman, pointing out that none of the military commanders favored such a steep withdrawal. “This is not time for America to cut and run,” he said.
Since September 11, 2001, military spending has increased by almost 7 percent a year, up from $291 billion ten years ago to almost $700 billion today. For 2012, the Pentagon has requested an appropriation of $671 billion including $118 billion to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in order for the military to execute its base budget plans over the next decade, it needs a total of $597 billion or 11 percent more than if funding was held at the 2011 level. The sequester would prevent this rise from occurring.