An odd time to push for defense cuts

U.S. congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank are calling for their fellow policymakers on both sides of the political aisle to support a $1 trillion cut in U.S. military spending. The push, which comes only two weeks after Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a plan to close the Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Virginia, and to reduce the military’s top-heavy management structure, is gaining some momentum.

The U.S. Second Fleet, which trains all strike groups before deployment and employs hundreds of military personnel, contractors and civilian employees, is also likely to be closed as the Department of Defense aims to tighten its budget.

With the national debt soaring at over $13 trillion, it’s evident that all areas of government should undergo a drastic shakeup to eliminate waste and achieve more efficiency. But, so far, Gates is the only one of President Obama’s department heads to propose concrete spending cuts.

In light of the current political climates in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere, the timing of these pushes for defense budget cuts seems counterintuitive.


In March, China announced an increase of 7.5 percent in its defense budget raising it to $78.6 billion. Beijing is notorious for a lack of transparency regarding the true magnitude of its military buildup, so the true increase is almost certainly much higher. In August, the annual report to Congress on China’s military power was released describing a massive Chinese military buildup designed primarily to push America out of the Western Pacific. The report says China is pursuing a variety of air, naval, submersible, space and cyber weapons designed specifically to destroy U.S. battle carrier groups.

The report also explains that Beijing has developed artillery that can reach across the Taiwan Strait, and is developing several nuclear aircraft carriers and submarines. Its newest Dong Feng missiles can strike targets 890 miles from the mainland. The capabilities Beijing is pursuing go well beyond defense goals. Its military expansion is designed to project China’s rising power.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jiang Yu said that the Pentagon’s report “made absurd comments on China’s normal defense works and exaggerated China’s military prowess, trying to plant this notion of a ‘China threat.’”

Reassuring words.

Middle East

Iran has crossed a pivotal nuclear threshold. Like North Korea, Iran has defied U.S. attempts to reign in its military expansion and nuclear development, and, on August 21, Russian and Iranian engineers began loading radioactive uranium rods into Iran’s first nuclear power plant in the city of Bushehr. The international community is rife with concern that the facility will produce enriched nuclear materials for use with nuclear weapons. Although Tehran and Moscow deny the charge, analysts point out that Iran could use Bushehr to enhance its uranium enrichment program, headquartered 300 miles away at Natanz.

On August 22, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended an Iranian Ministry of Defense ceremony to celebrate the completion of Iran’s first unmanned, or drone, bomber. Iranian state tv broadcast a successful test flight of the Karrar (“Striker”) aircraft, and said that it had a range of 620 miles, and could carry two 250-pound bombs, or a 500-pound precision bomb.

After unveiling the Karrar, Ahmadinejad said, “This jet is a messenger of honor and human generosity and a savior of mankind, before being a messenger of death for enemies of mankind.”

More reassuring words.


On August 23, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg presented a plan to the German cabinet that would streamline the German military and significantly boost the number of troops that can be sent on missions abroad. Journalist Christian Thiel, writing on the website of the German tv news service Tagesschau, said, “This is not a reform, but in reality a revolution, planned by the defense minister” (our translation).

Back in April, Trumpet columnist Ron Fraser wrote this about Guttenberg’s military ambitions for Germany:

Guttenberg is determined to change the Bundeswehr’s image into that of a legitimate combat force with broad public acceptance. At the February Munich Security Conference, he …”spoke about the need to take action. What was important, the minister pointed out, was that progress be made regarding the long-overdue reforms of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (nato). “We talk too much and act too little,” he said.This was an effort to apply pressure to nato to revamp its charter by the end of the year, implicitly integrating German imperial goals with nato objectives. … Ultimately, German military elites will be eyeing either a merger with, or takeover of, the nuclear-armed nato. … The EU is empowered under the Lisbon Treaty to develop a continental military force. That this force will have nuclear potential is quietly taken as a given by certain German military and political elites.

Mr. Gates has emphasized that the budget itself will not be cut, but merely have its growth slowed. But with turmoil mounting on each of the world’s major continents, is this a good time for the U.S. to broadcast to the world that defense is what it’s most anxious to scale down?