We can thank a self-absorbed Congress for hurting national defense if deep automatic defense cuts happen

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

I'm as surprised as anyone, but at least a portion of those threatened automatic defense cuts in the U.S. budget actually may be coming to pass, experts say, which likely could put a stop to U.S. Air Force plans for a new long-range jet bomber , a new Army tactical vehicle , and could reduce the U.S. Navy's fleet of aircraft carriers lower than the current 11 vessels.

For the longest time, I dismissed such predictions, but this time it looks like I may be wrong. Still it's hard to believe because -- let's face it -- Congress can do anything it wants, provided a majority of congressmen and senators agree. This agreement, however, or lack of it, would seem to be at the root of the problem we're facing.

Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times wrote a convincing piece in Sunday's paper entitled "Budget gridlock imperils national defense Arms systems cuts look likely ," that outlines ominous prospects for automatic defense cuts -- or "sequestration," in Congress-speak.

Congress approved the 2011 Budget Control Act not long ago that calls for across-the-board defense cuts to begin on 1 Jan. 2013 if Congress fails to cut spending, increases taxes, or both to reign-in budget deficits. The law calls for Congress to cut defense spending by $500 billion over 10 years if lawmakers cannot reach agreement on budget targets, which looks increasingly likely.

The first of 2013 begins the first year of automatic budget cuts, and would take $50 billion from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget. That's roughly one-tenth of the Pentagon's total annual budget, and almost certainly would mean elimination of several weapons programs.

I honestly thought it would never come to this, but I've never seen Congress so divided along ideological fault lines before. The big problem, with the way the law is written, is Congress simply has to do nothing for automatic spending cuts to take place.

Doing nothing? That's easy, especially for this Congress. When and if the cuts take place, each member of Congress simply can shrug his or her shoulders and claim, "not MY fault." Built-in political cover. That's a law made in Heaven for this Congress, and on hindsight, that's gotta be exactly the way they planned it.

Congress wins, the Pentagon loses. It's all so tawdry because it's so dishonest.

Dishonest? Congress? Well duh! Rather than voting defense cuts up or down, members of Congress have maneuvered themselves into letting cuts happen automatically by doing nothing and then being able to deny responsibility.

Is it any wonder that Congress is so unpopular with the American public? Is it any wonder that a "throw the bums out" mentality rears its ugly head among voters with increasing frequency? It's pretty obvious to me. With people like this in office, everyone's in trouble, not just the Pentagon.

Food for thought when we go to the polls in November.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12

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