Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Washington Perspective -- Calendar

AFA members, tonight the President delivers his State of the Union speech to both Houses of Congress. The Republicans respond after the speech.

What to listen for from both speeches:
- Listen for any focus on national defense. In this tough economy, it’s doubtful that you will see this topic broached … other than to take credit or pass blame for taking steps to reduce our presence overseas. But, as I have said many times, the Preamble to the Constitution says “ … provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare ….” National security is job #1 for the government.

- Listen for any indication of what the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mullen, says is the number one threat facing the nation: our national debt and annual deficit. As you know, politicians on both sides like to … be popular … and tout new programs and increased spending/investment in certain areas … not to talk about what and where will be cut. But I believe we are facing a mountain that our children/grandchildren will have to face. At 2%, the interest on the national debt is over $300B. That is larger than the budgets of the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, Department of Justice, and the Department of Transportation … combined. We presently pay for only about 60% of every dollar spent. We have to address this issue head on.

- Listen for a shared sense of “togetherness” in these tough times. We need our leaders to pull together … and to unite our nation … not necessarily behind specific policies, but behind a shared set of goals for the country. [I’m not talking about bi-partisanship here. That’s probably too much to expect.]

I recognize that this is the election season [and the season has been underway for a while] … and it is unlikely that these speeches will be the final say on America’s challenges, but it is time for us all to understand what needs to be done and to chart a path to the future.

Secondly, on 26 Jan, I expect Secretary Panetta to give us a peak at the FY13 defense budget. We know the deficit control act of last summer cut $450+ billion out of defense. Many people I meet with say … that’s probably OK … but … don’t cut me/my base/my district, etc. We expect there to be sizable cuts to all the Services. Initial indications are that the cuts will be meted out proportionally – 30/30/30/10 to the Departments of the AF, Army, and Navy, and the agencies. While I believe the Strategic Guidance puts a premium on air, space, cyber space, and naval forces, sometimes the programmers and budgets don’t necessarily follow the guidance. Also, with the Air Force budget less than 20% of the defense budget (vs the Army at 35% and the Navy at 25%), an even split in percent terms cuts the Air Force less than the others. However, we don’t know if the split is in percent or dollar terms. If it is in dollar terms, the result could be as much as $10B more in FY13 than if it were in percent terms. Look for a cut of almost 300 airplanes from the AF inventory; look for cuts to the Guard and Reserves as well as the active force. And look for “unhappiness” broadly shared.

Finally, I expect the budget to be sent to Congress on 13 February. It is then that we will know specifics about the Administration’s request.

In the meantime, Congress has a number of issues facing it: extending the 2% Social Security tax cut and the Medicare/TRICARE “doc fix” past February, among others.

And … hanging over the Department of Defense is the threat of sequestration. Sequestration, if it occurs in Jan 13, would cut another $500B or so from DOD.

There is lots of work for all this year.

For your consideration.


Michael M. Dunn

Air Force Association

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"..provide for the common defense" of whom? To my understanding the Constitution's intent is to provide for the domestic defense of the United States...not for the world as we posture ourselves to do now. Further, providing for the common defense can not simply equate to providing weapon systems as I believe to be the implication in your statement. Weapon systems are not all automatic i.e. turn them on and they think and act on our behalf. People are still involved in the equation. So how does providing for the common defense leave out providing for the ones who will think and operate the weapon systems needed for our common sense. People count in this equation but in this current climate of blame and cut, investing in people is only being advocated by a few, too few. Of what good is the land if there is no one to till it? Of what good is a defense if there are not the people who believe in it and are prepared to operate it? Defense includes more than just soldiers, sailors, marines or airmen?
Anyone in the know would say that Bob Hope contributed to the defense of this Nation? How? Through his care, knowledge, understanding and willingness to provide for the troops in the way that he could. During World War II, women ferried planes, worked in factories and bought bonds to help defend us.

Providing for the common defense is more than bullets, bombs, weapon systems and instruments of destruction. It is all encompassing in my opinion and should not be saddled to a figure of the National Debt alone. The issue of the Debt to me, must be approached from the stand points of what are we going to do about it and how we will use it to make our selves better, not lesser as the current arbitrary cut mentality prevailing. If our children are saddles with a portion of the fixing of this problem then they should be taught how we (our generation) got us to this point and how they and their descendent will do what we did not and defend themselves by moving us from this point.