The Hill reports that the defense industry is anxious the fiscal cliff tax deal may increase the likelihood of Pentagon cuts:
The defense industry is worried last week’s budget deal on taxes could damage its negotiating position for the next “fiscal cliff” deadline two months from now, when across-the-board spending cuts would take effect.
The deficit debate is shifting from taxes toward spending cuts and the debt limit, where there will be more of a focus on new cuts to the Pentagon.
While the first fiscal cliff fight over taxes included the threat of massive across-the-board spending cuts, the sequel is going to be nearly all about where to cut spending. The Pentagon is the largest target outside of entitlements. …
Some defense analysts say that the shift in the Republican Party away from national security, with the rise of the Tea Party, was highlighted during the fiscal-cliff negotiations, where taxes trumped defense in importance. …
“Other issues have overtaken national security as being more important,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
“I think it does show how the Republican Party is no longer the party of national security, no longer a big-tent party of Reagan Republicans where a strong defense was a central tenet of conservatism.”
Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post is one of the best defense correspondents out there, but he goes off the deep end in this article, claiming that there is a truth that no politician, general, or think tanker dare utter–that “measured by most relevant statistics, the United States — and the world — have never been safer.” He explains: “Global terrorism has barely touched most Americans in the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, with 238 U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks, mostly in war zones, according to the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual reports. By comparison, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 293 Americans were crushed during the same stretch by falling furniture or televisions.” Therefore, he more or less suggests, there is no reason to spend as much as we do on defense. “The candidates’ rhetoric, however, suggests that the globe is ablaze.”
Jaffe’s first claim is actually self-refuting–the notion that no one dare talk about how safe we are. He quotes academics and think tankers who do just that. In fact, the argument that the terrorist threat is overblown is a regular trope of political scientist John Mueller (see, for instance, this 2006 Foreign Affairs article). The fact that such arguments have won little traction in the political process–even relatively dovish Democrats think we should be spending a lot of money on homeland defense–is a sign not of the overwhelming lobbying power of defense contractors or hawkish think tankers or other actors, but rather of the fundamental unreality behind these arguments.
The central pillar of the rebuttal to complaints about American defense spending compared to that of the rest of the world is the fact that other countries–or continents, in Europe’s case–can only afford to skimp on defense spending because the U.S. will pick up the slack. American defense cuts, if not done carefully and responsibly, risk leaving a vacuum in areas where the U.S. military has carried the burden of influence.
So it’s not surprising that the prospect of American defense cuts, together with the “pivot” of resources to the Asia-Pacific region, are making some European allies nervous. Britain’s new defense minister, however, has some advice for his European counterparts: stop whining and pitch in:
Instead of worrying about the cutbacks to U.S. military power in the region, which many NATO countries apparently had been counting on to offset their own deep defense reductions, [Phillip] Hammond said the allies must recognize that “as a result, European nations, including the UK, will need to do much more of the heavy lifting in the security of their own region,” including both Europe itself and the Middle East, Northern Africa, and the Horn of Africa, which he called “the near abroad.”
“This is not the end of Atlanticism, but the beginning of a new, more balanced relationship in the alliance,” Hammond said.
While the U.S.-UK ties will always be Britain’s priority, Hammond said, “to support your rebalancing [to Asia], we will seek to work more closely with our neighbors in Europe, particularly France and Germany, to enhance capabilities in our own region.”