With $500 billion slated to come out of defense spending in the next decade, on top of previously scheduled cuts already planned by the Obama administration, we’re on track to see our force readiness and our ability to project power seriously compromised with no serious alternative vision for posture, strength, and spending reform proposed.
Those planned cuts are already having an effect. The Pentagon has warned that the services will likely see significant personnel drawdowns. Secretary Panetta warned earlier this year that the U.S. Marine Corps is projected to shrink by some 20,000 Marines, about 10 percent of the corps. Steel yourself for announcements of layoffs and “early outs” in the other service branches, as well.
By now, you might think the president and his team would recognize that the sequester will have a significant impact on our nation’s security. Their reliance on word games—“will not” versus “should not”—suggests they have done little serious thinking and have no plan for tackling the challenge of sequestration and the rest of the looming “fiscal cliff.”
The only other possible explanation for the President’s statement – other than a straight gaffe or the almost unconscionable thought that the comment was a throwaway line meant to deflect a difficult line of questioning – is that the President actually thinks we can solve all the problems this country has been wrestling with for a generation in thirty days.
Not only has the President not ended the “rise of the oceans” or the “warming of the planet" in his first four years, but he has yet to figure out "change the culture of Washington" or, more specifically, how to avert trillion dollar annual deficits. The fact is, avoiding sequestration will take more than 30 days and all the leadership any President can muster.
The problems and challenges this country faces are huge. Unless the Administration and Congress reverse course, end the parsing of “will” and “should,” and start talking now, the country is going to have to deal with the product of a hacked-together deal built in those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In concept, this would be almost as bad as letting the “meat axe” of sequestration fall – because if this mythical deal doesn’t go to work on the underlying causes that got us into this mess in the first place, the axe will eventually fall anyway.
One might think all sides know this by now. And one might hope our leaders in Washington would show the capacity to govern when faced with critical challenges; but on the question of sequestration, and reform in general, leadership is in short supply. That sad fact was clear from President Obama’s careless remark in Boca Raton.