Sequestration and Defense Spendingby Representative Earl Blumenauer
Posted on 2013-02-14
BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, part of the air of unreality in
Washington is the myth of our inability to contend with budget
reductions and the threat of sequestration in stabilizing America's
financing. No doubt the draconian hand of across-the-board cuts in
every program from food safety to border control to air traffic control
would be foolish and destructive.
Let me be clear. The major problem in all of this is here in Congress and our political structure, which creates self-inflicted crises. Sequestration and the postal deficit are just two examples. We know what to do, but you would never know it because we spend most of our efforts around here describing and decrying the problems rather than doing something about them.
Let me repeat. The amount of budget reduction is something that can, in fact, be managed if only we change how America does business. Nowhere have the cries been more anguished than about the impact of sequestration on the Department of Defense, ironically, from many of the same people who insisted on the sequestration gimmick in the first place. As is widely recognized, sequestration over the next 10 years when applied to the Pentagon's budget would only reduce it in inflation-adjusted terms to what it was in 2007 when the most powerful military in the world was engaged in a war in Iraq and the challenge in Afghanistan.
[[Page H508]] If Members of Congress pay attention to the facts, they will see a clear path to dramatically reduce Pentagon spending without undermining America's position of being the most powerful Nation on the planet.
Nobody has done a better job of highlighting a path forward, an area of opportunity, than Walter Pincus, writing in the pages of The Washington Post over the course of the last couple of years as he details the sweep of our nuclear weapons program and the spending trajectory. This morning is his latest offering and should be required reading for every Member of Congress, and the ones who whine the loudest should be forced to read it twice. He details the vast array of nuclear weapons that are ready to be deployed within 30 minutes, a relic of our contending with the former Soviet Union, where deterrence was the order of the day and when we were relying on massive assured mutual destruction of that huge country with overwhelming force.
Now, not even the most delusional think we need a fraction of that firepower for today's threats, like North Korea, and it certainly wouldn't work against a nuclear weapon falling in the arms of some radical extremist. That, by the way, is most likely to happen with Pakistan's proven nuclear capability than Iran's, which is still being developed.
The cost of this overwhelming force, including its three delivery systems, ought to give people pause. Consider the 14 Ohio class submarines, each with 24 ICBMs and each missile armed with five warheads, each three times the explosive power of the bombs dropped on Japan. We've got 118 B-52 strategic bombers and, of course, all of the land-based missiles where people are in the silos, ready to launch at a moment's notice. It is, by any stretch of the imagination, extravagance that borders on lunacy.
The $80 billion the White House was forced to promise for the upgrades on the nuclear weapons complex and the at least $100 billion to replace the strategic delivery systems that were extracted in return for votes to pass the START treaty are obvious places to begin retrenchment. There are tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars to be saved over the next 10 years by refocusing our defense posture for the threats of today and the likely ones of tomorrow. Let's start cutting this massive Cold War deterrence based on the threat of nuclear weapons we've never been able to use, don't want to use, shouldn't use, and can't afford.
I invite my colleagues, especially those on the other side of the aisle, to join us in getting real and getting specific. There is a clear path forward that should command the support of Republicans and Democrats alike to achieve fiscal stability. Let's rein in outrageous crop insurance abuses. Don't fight health care reform--accelerate it. The work we're doing in Oregon, if applied nationally, could save up to $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Pay for the privilege of taking America's mineral wealth by reforming the Mining Act of 1872, and slash the fossilized nuclear weapons program.