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The Coming Conservative Breakup on National Security

15 Jun 2010
Posted by Bruce Bartlett
Concerns about budget deficits and rising debt levels are leading to fractures in the heretofore unified conservative support for ever-higher defense spending. At least a few Republicans are now openly suggesting significant cuts in the defense budget, raising concerns among conservatives primarily concerned about national security. I believe that ultimately national security conservatives will be forced to choose between cuts in the defense budget and tax increases to reduce deficits.
I provide a number of links to studies on this topic in my Fiscal Times column here.

This is a huge deal and not

This is a huge deal and not an easy one to take on. Most people think that the budgets are bloated due to weapons procurement programs. In part that is true. According to this budget doc

the 3 big areas are procurement, Operations and Maintenance, and Personnel (this is Navy only - I am not as familiar with how the other services work so I will just stick with the Navy picture and assume that it is similar across all services).

The Navy is already addressing the procurement side. O&M is a function of operations which should stay stable so that is not going to change (and may go higher if fuel costs rise). The big untouchable is MILPERS which is eating away at all the services budgets. All the benies, especially health care costs, are really growing very fast. The Navy has brought its active duty down by 40k people and will shave off a few thousand more. But the cost per sailor will have to come down. And this gets touchy politically as the veterans groups and others will demagogue this to death. Especially considering that we have boots on the ground in two countries. And to some degree, who can blame them. Bottom line, nothing interesting will happen until we get out.

Oh, please

It's been 50 years, for heavens sake, since a Republican president actually cared about balanced budgets. Republicans are no more a party of fiscal sobriety than Democrats are a party of Jim Crow laws. Ancient history.

I find it interesting, however, that some Republicans are actually facing the reality that 2 different mutually exclusive ideas actually might not work. Infinite military spending (to protect oil interests, of course) and no tax increases will eventually lead to the "Greece" scenario. I would have bet that no Republican would publicly admit to this conclusion before this year's election...because it implies that they can't spin gold from straw. (Otherwise known as Bush-onomics).

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