We advocates of a rational nuclear arms and national security policy have to look beyond November 23rd, the deadline for the Supercommittee’s report to Congress and the American people. The Pentagon (including Secretary Panetta), Senators McCain (R-Ariz) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and other legislators, are making an all out effort to undo any Pentagon cuts or undo sequestration if the Supercommittee cannot come to an agreement.
The national security budget includes the Pentagon, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and the Intelligence Agencies. It’s big and the deficit deal last summer did not exempt national security cuts. It insisted on them because they are necessary and prudent.
National security budgets are no mystery. The bi-partisan Bowles-Simpson Commission, Senator Coburn (R-Okla), who helps anchor down the Republican rightwing, Project on Government Oversight/Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Center for American Progress have each issued studies on national security spending. These represent four reports from ideological unalikes. Yet the reports overlap in many ways. Substantial cuts can be made without any risk to national security.
With compelling evidence in hand, President Obama must be decisive and clear.To counteract the Pentagon/McCain/Graham thrust. Obama must go on the offensive against the irresponsible efforts to keep the status quo with Pentagon spending.
The Republicans will argue that sequestration and/or significant cuts will threaten our national security. Quite the reverse: our security is threatened by following the “automatic pilot” line of the stand patters, the resisters to change. It is the very change that draws support across the ideological spectrum. It is change that strengtens national security and prevents our security from being weakened.
The initiative lies with the President. On policy he should be crystal clear: any legislation that undoes the military cuts or sequestration will be vetoed–no ands, if, buts or complicated conditionality.
On politics the President should point out that the Republican politicians who want to protect the status quo and privlege in the Pentagon, and other favored self-styled national security privleges, are the same people resisting any semblance of sacrifice from millionaires who want to retain their tax privleges and are looking to lower their tax rates from 35% to 28%. The issue begs for clear articulation by the President.
We have to begin now to recognize the engame is after November 23rd, no matter what the Supercommittee does or doesn’t do. After November 23rd the President’s resolve and leadership will be tested. We have to help him pass the test with flying colors..