A widely noticed article yesterday suggested that some Republicans would be willing to look at revenue-raising closures of tax loopholes to avoid the automatic cuts to defense programs, the so-called “trigger.” All of this caterwaul over returning military spending to 2007 levels, especially when ending no-bid contracts could pretty simply counteract the procurement cuts completely, is just an example of how the military industrial complex has major sway over our discourse. The military just found two giant telescopes sitting in a warehouse somewhere that they lent to NASA for a science operation. You cannot square that with whining about how the Pentagon will have to go poor. They can hold a bake sale, as the bumper sticker goes.
It’s true that the military cuts are big and sweeping without the possibility of being targeted, I will grant that. And then there’s the very sneaky gambit included by the Administration:
Republicans in Congress are up in arms over the Obama administration’s decision to include funding for the war in Afghanistan in the automatic cuts to defense spending that are set to begin in 2013.
Administration officials say the war funding has to account for part of the cuts under the law, but the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee says the money dedicated to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) was never intended to fall under the budget axe.
“I am disappointed the president has made this choice, since there is no clear mandate for it in the law,” House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
The language under the law is fairly unclear. And the White House has reversed course on this; late last year Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Senate Republicans in a letter that OCO would not be affected by the trigger. The Pentagon changed their opinion “under further review” from the Office of Management and Budget. But shouldn’t Republicans be thrilled that a dollar away from the war essentially equals a dollar that can go toward military services in their home districts?
This sounds like a very good reason, as if one was needed, to leave Afghanistan as quickly as possible. But I suspect it’s really being done to force the Republican hand on a grand bargain-type trigger avoidance. The Defense Department has been clear that they want no part of the trigger. Republicans may be targeting Democrats in defense-rich districts over this, but there are simply more Republicans in Congress who would be vulnerable. If they gave enough political cover on taxes, the defense trigger would disappear in a second.