WASHINGTON -- While President Barack Obama golfs his way through the Gulf Coast's oil-drenched environmental calamity, another crisis is looming across the Potomac. America's military, in harm's way in a two-front war, is about to get staggered by a double whammy below the belt. Unfortunately for those who wear our nation's uniform, the commander in chief and his cronies in Congress are throwing the punches.
The first blow will land in the next two weeks unless Harry Reid's Senate and Nancy Pelosi's House of Representatives can get their acts together to pass a supplemental appropriations bill to fund combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May, while proselytizing for homosexuals in our military, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gently reminded the congressional Armed Services committees that he needed the appropriation by Memorial Day. They ignored him.
Last month, he went again and told them the funds had to be approved before the Independence Day recess or the Pentagon would have to start doing "stupid things" -- such as shifting funds within the overall Defense Department budget just to keep the troops in the field supplied with beans, bullets and bandages. Once again, Congress -- taking its cue from Obama's virtual silence on the matter -- did nothing.
On July 13, Gates went up to Capitol Hill again, urging the solons to break the deadlock before the House recesses for "campaign season" at the end of the month. The defense secretary warned that without action by then, he will have to start canceling contracts on everything from weapons and equipment repairs to ammunition and fuel purchases in order to pay the troops. Not exactly what a soldier, sailor, airman, guardsman or Marine needs to hear in the middle of Afghanistan's "fighting season."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., describes the situation as "a true emergency." Yet despite dire predictions of higher unemployment as defense suppliers shed employees when contracts for munitions and equipment are delayed, there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency at the Obama White House. Perhaps that's because this is just the first low blow.
A second salvo is making its way through Washington's "think tanks" and elite soirees. For more than a month, while Gates has been begging Congress to act on this year's $33 billion war supplemental, the Sustainable Defense Task Force quietly has been circulating a report, titled "Debt, Deficits, & Defense: A Way Forward," to the same congressional offices. The 56-page document lays the groundwork for drastic cuts in U.S. military spending -- starting next year.
The 14-member, allegedly nonpartisan task force was convened last year at the direction of Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Its mandate was to "explore possible defense budget contributions to deficit reduction efforts that would not compromise the essential security of the United States."
No one from the so-called "mainstream media" has inquired about which, if any, members of the Obama administration have read the report. They should. The document not only proffers an entirely new definition of the word "contribution" but also provides a blueprint for unilateral disarmament in the midst of a war and a global spike in the development and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.
Though few would argue with the task force's conclusions that better acquisition, contracting and auditing at the Pentagon are essential to saving billions, the authors' base line budget urges the U.S. to reduce military spending by nearly a trillion dollars over the course of the next decade by making drastic cuts in ships, aircraft, weapons systems and military personnel. The premise for making such major strategic and conventional force structure cuts is naive and dangerous.
For example, in Section 3 of the report, labeled "Realistic Goals, Sustainable Strategy," the authors preface their proposed cuts by baldly claiming, "In the conventional realm, the United States today faces no global threat remotely comparable to that once posed by the Soviet Union and its allies." Somehow they seem to have missed a salient fact: More Americans have been killed by radical Islamists than by the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal.
Section 7, "A Strategy of Restraint Would Allow Even Greater Savings," posits that billions more can be saved by our adopting a "strategy of restraint -- one that reacts to danger rather than going out in search of it." For those of us who once learned what happened at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, or who vividly recall planes flying into buildings on Sept. 11, 2001, those words are highly offensive. But at the Obama White House -- where it's blame America first and apologize globally -- they undoubtedly will get a high-five.