March 1, 2013  

Second-rate rhetoric

To Leon Panetta, for going overboard in his anti-sequestration rhetoric.

No one in the armed forces wants the cuts that will follow if the nation falls off the fiscal cliff. Recent memos and documents from the services have spelled out various drastic measures — keeping two aircraft carriers on deployment “indefinitely” is just one example — that they would put into effect. As former Congressional Budget Office chief Alice Rivlin recently put it, sequestration was set up to be so stupid that it could not possibly happen.

But Panetta did his department no favors when he told senators on the Armed Services Committee that sequestration would mean this for the United States: “Instead of being a first-rate power in the world, we would become a second-rate power.”

Second-rate compared to whom? Even after a 10 percent hatchet job, the U.S. will still spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Overwrought protestations by the SECDEF undermine the military’s ability to make its budgetary case.