Defense cuts a threat to our national security

BY GREG SLAVONIC Published: December 14, 2011
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The same month that Congress cut $1 trillion from the defense budget, satellite photos revealed that blackened holes had replaced two buildings at a remote Iranian military facility.

According to analysts, the blast indicates that Iranian rocket scientists are working on a breakthrough in new missile technology, likely to target Israel or Europe or even the U.S. mainland. The event came just weeks after a United Nations report that Iran has accelerated its drive to develop nuclear weapons. Experts say all signs point to Iran's race to build a nuclear ballistic missile.

Yet the unprecedented defense cuts put into motion by the debt ceiling deal would drain funding for the most essential elements of our national security, including U.S. missile defenses that are our only physical protection from nuclear ballistic missile attack. It's like pawning your raincoat just as the first thunderclaps break over a darkening sky. The timing has national security experts howling.

The debt ceiling deal will cut $1 trillion out of the defense budget, $600 billion of which would be cut automatically across the board, slashing funding for trauma gauze for Army medics just as much as ballpoint pens for Pentagon bureaucrats. It's like Congress is cutting the budget blindfolded — the kind of absurd policy that belongs in a Hollywood farce, not Washington's reality.

Yet as a share of all federal spending, the Pentagon budget accounts for just 16 percent, compared with its 40 percent high during the Vietnam War. Investment in replacement equipment as well as new military technologies is also at a relatively low 1.3 percent of GDP, accounting for just a quarter of all defense spending. Modernization programs and Pentagon bureaucracy have been cut in recent years by hundreds of billions of dollars.