DoD Budget Cuts, an Outsider's Perspective

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by meteor, Dec 1, 2013.

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  1. meteor

    meteor Banned

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    Hello,

    I am a long-time lurker and I feel like I needed to comment. First let me introduce myself. I am a Hill Staffer and have done a lot of work on the Senate Armed Services Committee going back several years. Not surprisingly, I've seen a lot of complaints about budget cuts on this site and other sites I peruse as part of my work to monitor the pulse of individuals involved in the military.

    I just wanted to provided some context on the cuts , but first start with some background on where a lot of the bitter feelings come from. During the Bush years, many staffers and members on our side of the aisle (Dems) were concerned and upset with the testimony and information we were getting from the Uniformed Services about the status of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reasonable assessments on the likelihood of success or cost of the effort, both during the run-up and after the wars commenced. Likewise, when we were getting reports about proselytizing in the military, we felt the military wasn't being honest about the depth of the scandal and was outright endorsing it.
    That sense of bitterness increased after 2008. www dot politico.com/magazine/story/2013/11/obama-vs-the-generals-99379.htmlI reccomend this article on the topic or Obama's Wars by Woodward for an older account. The military boxed in POTUS on Afghanistan by manipulating the political process and leaking recommendations for troop levels to the press. Likewise, when the military wasn't eager to get involved in Libya or Syria murmurs were leaked to the press. Some of us wondered where was such clairvoyance or reticence to get involved in foreign missions when the prior Administration was selling the Iraqi invasion. And let's just say when McChystal went on his little rant, many people wanted to hang him. For some of us, it wasn't a matter of when this was going to happen, not if

    As you can suspect , when the Tea Party was elected to Congress in 2010, no one was too enthused. We all know the Republicans were going to take back the House, but this "movement" irked many of us. A lot of us shared the viewpoint, that if the American people vote these people get in, they deserve what they are going to get. As you know the Tea Partiers started to obsess over the deficit even though we were in a recession and most economists do not recommend cutting spending when the economy is soft, and the two combined budget shutdowns led to the initial cuts and the "sequester" cuts. We on our side are not fans of these cuts and how they are administered, but at the same time don't feel it's our fault. You got the Congress you voted for, that demanded budget cuts, and elections have consequences. As you are all aware, the officer corps is strongly Republican.

    One last thing, I think it would be important to have some perspective on the size of the DoD. In 2001, the DoD budget was about 300 billion. By 2011, that budget was 660 billion. No other department got that kind of boost in the prior Administration. Quite frankly, when you voted in a bunch of "(hypocritical) deficit warriors" did you really think the DoD would be given a pass?

    To the extent that deficit reduction is going to be the name of the game over the next couple of years, I would expect for the military to be scaled back and new R&D projects to be deferred or canceled. To put it bluntly, give Americans the choice between Social Security, health care, or education and the military, the former is going to win every time when there's a debate on what's going to be on the chopping block. There's a lot of Americans, I believe the majority , who is not happy with the neoconservative agenda so I would expect a lean military budget to to be the name of the game for the foreseeable future.
     
  2. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    (Written without any official-ness)

    The military tried some new iterations of theories in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Letting the Northern Alliance and SOF guys do most of the early work in Afghanistan seemed to work well, but after we "won," we altered our mission to nation building. Obviously, that wasn't as easy as some people thought! Iraq kind of did the same thing, if you generally buy into Tom Rick's Fiasco. We (America at-large) made some dangerous assumptions about the motivation and ability of the Iraqis to form a solid, functioning government after we created a power vacuum. That didn't work so hot. Once the military started figuring this out, we basically had to reach back to the 1920s USMC doctrine and figure out how that applied to the Middle East...more growing pains, to put it lightly.

    As to distrust between the DNC and DoD leadership, there's a lot of stuff going on there. Part of the "over-optimism" you suspected was probably a result of limited knowledge and no one wanting to deliver the bad news. Generals don't usually get to really see reality. If a general walks into a boot camp dining hall, the floor will be freshly polished, and the tables will have white linen and flowers (no joke!) That is not how things normally work, but they won't see that, as it's "rude" to just show up unannounced. So, generals get their information from their subordinate commanders or their own staff. I'd wager that neither side wants to tell their boss that they can't do what they are supposed to do, with the resources they previously asked for!

    As far as religious insensitivity, I don't know if it was a problem in the early 2000s, but I've seen far more people scared of offending people than people being offended. There are already systems in place, like the IG, to deal with issues that do pop up. I've heard of one critic saying cadets at a service academy should not be allowed to carry a bible to an off-duty Bible study if they are in uniform, as it could pressure others (I guess the fact that freshmen aren't allowed to wear civilian clothes never crossed his mind?) I've seen some pretty ridiculous claims from one of the leading organizations, and it's founder. I'm generally in the group accused of offending, but I've never felt pressured about religion during my time in the service.

    For the sequester, that was pretty much a given since the time the idea was seriously considered. Both sides could blame the other for cuts to their priorities, and both could get cuts from the other side. So, they get half of what they want, and get to blame the other party for any pain their interests feel. (I saw that one called long beforehand, but I can't claim the realization by myself.) It wasn't in either party's interest to agree to further cuts in their own priorities, so no agreement was reached.

    As far as the budget ballooning, I can't say that would be terribly surprising either. We went from a time of "peace dividends" (aka downgrading for cost savings) to 2 major conflicts abroad, plus previous commitments. Starting to hollow out the military until it is needed, then conducting a fast and costly improvement program for a war is CLASSIC American policy. The DoD isn't some efficient machine, and trying to develop and field personnel, equipment, tactics, and strategy on short notice is very costly. At least we don't send people to the sandbox with woodland pattern equipment anymore!...although I do fly a 44 year old helicopter that has no replacement in sight, after the last replacement program was canceled several years ago. You know things are strange when the Marines are giving the Air Force hand-me down aircraft!

    As far as the deficit, does anyone think the current trends are sustainable? I haven't heard anyone looking hard at projections and saying "It'll be fine!"


    Welcome to the forum!
     
  3. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I have never met any group of people who were more self-absorbed, out-of-touch, and blind to their own incompetence and the limits of their power than capitol hill staffers. The icing on the cake is that each one, to a man, believes he's toiling away doing the Lord's work for knuckle-dragging "American public."

    Excellent statement of the obvious on your part. Thanks for the update and warning from the hallowed halls. Now, what the hell are you guys doing to actually fix...ANYTHING? As though Congress' general conduct isn't embarrassing enough, to be lectured in tones such as "if the American people vote these people get in, they deserve what they are going to get" and "don't feel it's our fault" and "no other department got that kind of boost in the prior Administration" is beyond pathetic. Does your boss know you're an expert at blaming everyone else for the problems you're supposed to be helping fix? Oh, wait, he's a congressman. Of course he does.

    I don't care if you're a capitol hill janitor or Harry freakin' Reid. It takes some serious nerve to come in here and lecture us from your cushy office about how bad things are going to get. I bet you're not going to lose a single benefit, are you? No, you're not. You'll go to work with a smile of self-satisfied achievement on your face about all the good you're doing, and think about all those things the dastardly military leadership is hiding from you.

    You mean like Shinseki getting railroaded for telling Congress directly that troop levels planned for Iraq were insufficient? You (and I mean you, the civilian leadership) get exactly what you deserve as far as the military talking around you about strategy. When our leaders talk to you, they get fired. There's your reward for us sharing our clairvoyance. Your real anger, methinks, is that a bunch of dumb "mostly Republican" officers played politics better than the politicians. We're not as dumb as you think.

    "No other department got that kind of boost in the prior Administration." No other department was asked by that administration, or this one, to invade and occupy two nations and drag them into some form of peace and governance befitting the 21st century security needs of the United States. No other department is asked to react to Benghazi and fix the aftermath of Either do your job as a Congress, stop being party to government which has wielded the military as an instrument of paranoid and shortsighted foreign policy, stop asking us to be prepared for every eventuality from all-out cyber warfare to hostage rescue to global force projection, or shut up and pay us what it costs. Seen a lot of Depart of Health and Human Services folks missing their legs lately as a result of the work their government asked them to do? No? Good, now let's stop pretending that DoD got that money in a vacuum, like so much good fortune.

    You don't get to act like the town bully with a big ol' stick and then tell the stick it's too expensive. If you're monitoring my pulse, it's that every last clown in Congress is entrenched, lustful for power, and shameless in the face of their own ineffectiveness as leaders and citizens.

    Perhaps since you work for a purported public servant, you'll tell us for whom you staff?
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  4. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    (Note: The words and opinions below are provided solely to express the authors personal opinions only, and are not the official positions of, nor endorsed by, the DoD or any service therein.)

    Meteor,

    Welcome to the boards, ad thank you for your personal opinions and insight into the dynamics of the budget process and Congressional oversight of the DoD. As someone from the "working in the building on other side of the Potomac" (in fact, you've probably seen some of my words in the "official responses" and Senior Leader Testimony given to the SASC from one of the services on a certain program), I found your words very interesting.

    Interesting, but just a tad disturbing that your words prove to me the level of distrust there currently exists between the services and the current majority party in the Senate. I am VERY concerned with some of your statements and their tone, particularly your broad-brush assumptions that the leaders and members of the DoD are somehow on "the opposing team". A shame really, as we are discussing the security of our Nation and the citizenry we both are entrusted to serve. But in my position, I fully understand that politics are firmly entrenched in the process, unfortunately.

    So, in the hopes of providing some insight dialogue for the young men and women interested in serving their country and the parents of these individuals, persons unfamiliar with the intricacies of the dynamic but who will be impacted by the results, please allow me to provide some questions and personal opinion in response:

    1) From your perspective, how can BOTH SIDES go about efforts to reestablish the trust in each other and improve this process?

    2) In my own personal opinion, I would counter to you that the vast majority of the DoD, to include its current leadership, is FULLY AWARE that our current spending levels for National Security are indeed unsupportable in the current fiscal environment (we are also concerned taxpayers, and understand the realities of the situation). So I ask, what can we do TOGETHER to smartly reduce the DoD's budget? While Congressional oversight tends to focus on R&D and new systems for cuts, the DoD has been for years requesting other measures be included such as reducing and consolidating unnecessary and expensive infrastructure, adjusting personnel benefits to supportable levels (which currently takes up a very large chunk of our budget). However, it seems Congress will ALWAYS refuse these other measures to reduce the budget. Is it possible to find the middle ground?

    3) One of the largest issues with the DoD's budgeting efforts right now is the uncertainty in the budget process. No firm budget for over 4 years now, with Congress relying exclusively on Continuing Resolutions to maintain current budget levels and continue governance. As you know, this raises havoc on the DoD's ability to accurately provide a budget within the Fiscal Year Defense Plan. What do you suggest we do together as we go forward in FY14, FY15, and beyond in this current environment?

    Again, thanks for the perspective. I hope you continue to provide it to the folks here, as it provides great value into understanding the process.

    Bullet
     
  5. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Do you realize how many industries are involved in R&D for military hardware? I am not so sure that people won't place health care or even education behind the military when it is their job on the line. Or do you think that the computer chips, the metal, the glass, the paint, even the tiny little light bulbs are made by a genie, and not companies like Raytheon, GE, Goodrich, etc? 1 in 6 jobs are tied to the defense department, what will that do to our unemployment rate which is still above 7%.

    I also think our elected officials would join on the band wagon too if those projects are in their district, can we all say BRAC? Maybe your district doesn't have any military bases, but I can bet you that Sen. Hagan (D) from NC would be screaming bloody murder if they came around and said Seymour Johnson or Ft. Bragg was on the BRAC list. She would be stating that those bases are crucial to the DoD. Just as I am sure that if nothing in NC was to take a hit, she would say the DoD is bloated and needs to be cut.
    ~~~ In essence it is the game they play.

    I find it kind of laughable you placing healthcare on the priority list, when according to any and all polls the majority of Americans oppose ACA. It is only on their radar now because our POTUS lied to the country 30+ times regarding their ability to keep their insurance. So, yes it now gets bumped up the list for safety due to the handling of those sitting on the Hill since they didn't read the entire bill before they voted for back in 10.

    Finally, since your job is to monitor sites like this to get the pulse of those in some shape or form connected to the military, could you pass on my pet peeve to your boss. While you sit here and believe the military budget is bloated, which I am not arguing, why don't you take a look at yourselves too.
    I.E. how much did it cost annually for Ms. Pelosi to fly home on the Air Force's planes for her and her staff compared to flying commercial? Please don't tell me it is for security reasons that she needed to have the bigger jet.
    How much is their entertaining budget? Is there really a need for floral decorations?
    How often are their offices renovated compared to the military?
    How many yrs do they serve before they get their lovely retirement paycheck, not 20 now is it?
    How much do they make compared to the avg enlisted or officer? They will vote for pay raises for their selves, while telling the military there is no money.
    How much does their gym cost? Now ask how much all of those military members pay to use the Pentagon gym? Why can't they pay just like those across the river?

    IOWs before you start pointing fingers or giving lessons, do what every parent tells their children...Lead by example, not just words!
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  6. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Oh.... I didn't realize we had a hill staff here.

    Now I REALLY trust this thread!

    Honestly, the more junior a staffer, the more important he or she thinks he is. There's nothing more interesting than listening to staffers talking about what they think is important on the Metro ride home. Oh, wait, I take that back. Listening to Congressional interns is slightly more interesting.

    If there is one group of people in D.C. who know less than the Hill staffers, it's their elected bosses.

    In general, people tolerate Hill staffers, and the Staffers tend to rotate between staffs and organizations in D.C. They're generally polarizing.

    As far as appointees and C-schedule folks in D.C., I have never worked with a less experienced, less informed, more self-interested folks in my life.


    But thank you for joining the conversation, and please stop screwing up in D.C.
     
  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Oh, wow. I've never seen a bigger "victim" POTUS in my life. Now that Democrats can't blame Bush, they have to find someone else to blame. NOTE: I didn't realize the first time I posted this, that the staffer DID blame Bush in his post.... so typical.

    I have seen, first hand, as a Coast Guard PAO, the extent that Dem. political appointees from the Obama administration have buried stories that weren't advantageous for this administration. In fact, a assistant sec. for public affairs at DHS "moved on for other opportunities" after some of this became public.

    I'm guessing Meteor isn't a very senior person, OR he's wasting a great deal of tax payer dollars monitoring this site. What's more interesting is, this Hill staffer, a Dem. claiming to be pro-transparency, isn't using his name or identifying himself. That's a true testament to the "transparency" this administration espouses. Very telling. :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  8. pointguard

    pointguard Member

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    What I noticed most about the

    post was how out only the Republican side got chastised, and only with the worst monikers used by the Democrats to convey distrust and bad-karma, Neo's and TB's. Frankly, I don't have a problem with those who want to see a strong Constitution used and defended. Republicans imo get a bad rap on Defense spending. The usual Dem-gutting of the military creates a need to overspend when following them, thereby perpetuating the myth the Republicans are warmongers at worst, beholden to Industry interests at best. Clinton gutted the Military to what I believed was a ~40% reduction, I may be dreaming on that #, but then Bush got handed the outcrop of that with the Cole, 9/11, Afhganistan, Iraq, etc. By the time the Dem's are done the clean up is very expensive both in bodies, equipment, politics around the world, and military infrastructure. This time will be no different. I'm not sure a supposed Staffer belongs here.
     
  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    You're playing into it. I'm guessing our Hill Staffer friend here is in a cushy 6 person cubicle farm in some larger room. Waiting to make copies, read some horrible bill, or grab coffee, like most staffers.

    "Hey LITS, I have a huge part in bill HR 10000000000.1!"

    Yeah ok.
     
  10. NorwichDad

    NorwichDad Member

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    Really well said. Scout has lost more than a few friends because of Policy. He is speaking from more than 10 years of policy experience from the downstream side.

    anyway welcome Meteor
     
  11. GoArmyBeatNavy

    GoArmyBeatNavy Member

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    Printing and framing.
     
  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    But printers and framers have something to show for it...
     
  13. meteor

    meteor Banned

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    Again, this is the kind of mindless thing you hear on Meet the Press about why can't Congress come together. There's no such thing as Congress. There's two separate parties on Capitol Hill with very little overlap in constituencies that barely socialize or talk with each other. I am not saying things were perfect before 2010, but the knuckle-draggers have been elected have made things worse. To put it bluntly, you can't negotiate with people who think the President is a stealth Muslim born in Kenya (Tea Partiers). If you think I am exaggerating, look at the polling done.I mean think about it, if you've told your constituents that the other party is headed by a Kenyan Muslim Socialist, how can you run for re-elect after cutting a deal with the devil? Plus Capitol Hill staffers don't make that much money, I am not sure where you are getting your numbers from.


    Actually if you recall Shinseki was made head of the VA by the current administration. And what happened to Shinseki was exactly my point. That was done by the prior Administration, not Congress or our party. Why didn't the rest of the officers stand up for him and say he was telling the truth instead of letting him hang out to dry? Congressmen are said to be disloyal opportunists but... The administration could have marginalized one person, but if so many generals came out in opposition at the same time, it would have forced the Administration to rethink or abandon its agenda.

    See above.
    My opinions are mine, like everyone else here posting, but I provided a helpful link if you find my opinions unfounded. I don't think I am saying anything here that some of you were not already aware of.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  14. meteor

    meteor Banned

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    Well, I think if you parse through my original link, a lot of the current anger has to do over those unhelpful leaks that go to the press. It seems the favorite newspaper to leak to is the WSJ,hmm what a coincidence? I guess the point would be, if you're going to leak do it when both parties are in power.

    Cutting personnel benefits is political poison. It's easier politically to cut new systems , while some in the DoD probably think the reverse. If you were to ask me, the DoD should suggest that a panel be set up to evaluate benefits, a nonpartisan commission, but only give Congress the power to override it with 2/3 vote so they have political cover and can claim they had nothing to do with it.

    Hey, this sounds partisan, but again, not our fault! The way budgets are traditionally done is that both Houses pass a budget that goes to conference. The conference report is subject to an up or down vote in each House. The far-right tea party wing does not want go to into conference with the Senate. Because Boehner has adopted what is called the "Hastert" Rule which even Hastert itself did not follow religiously. The idea is he will not allow anything to get passed into law if a majority of the GOP Caucus does not support it. There are a lot of bills and budgets that could get passed though the House with a minority of the GOP and the House Dems, but Boehner does not want to allow the bills. As I said earlier, elections have consequences. And when you vote in the clown car there's nothing the DoD or I can do about it.
     
  15. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Oh this is getting good. Thank you Meteor, for again showing why no one in the NCR (except their parents) take Hill staffers seriously.

    I guess the only think we can be happy about is.... many of us make more money than them. :rolleyes:
     
  16. meteor

    meteor Banned

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    As I mentioned before, no one doubts the fact that cutting spending increases unemployment, but there is no economic theory that espouses what you are describing, what Krugman calls "weaponized Keynesianism" where somehow cutting military spending has an adverse impact on jobs and the economy, but somehow that doesn't apply to other spending.

    Speaking of Congressmen, no one is more embarrassed than staffers when we see Congress orders tanks to be built that the military does not want because it provides jobs in this or that district. We take orders like everyone else.



    These are all trivial and partisan talking points. The current total federal budget is 3.45 trillion. Military related spending is around 850 billion, as you know many parts of the budget are tucked outside the DoD budget like the pensions, handling of the nuclear weapons, etc. Congressional spending is a rounding error in the budget. And no I don't think Congressmen should ride on military transport for CODEL's in most circumstances. But my suspicion is the DoD is ok with that since it's a chance to wine and dine, lobby, and show Congressmen their stuff.
     
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  17. meteor

    meteor Banned

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    So this is the kind of stuff that makes me laugh when I read it. I guess the idea is that Cold War spending is the baseline. Neither our political or military leaders implied that was the case. Everyone expected for spending to go down when the Cold War ended. And no, they weren't Clinton's cuts. They started under HW Bush and continued under the Republican Congress from 95-2001 that approved every nickel of those cuts. That's how we get that nice balanced budget that everyone likes to talk about. I guess everyone likes the result, but not the recipe, huh?

    And I see someone is waiving the bloody shirt of 9/11. I am sure "pointguard" can tell me how having an extra aircraft carrier or submarine parked outside of Russia would have prevented the hijacking of commercial aircraft in the United States. :mad:
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  18. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Perhaps they seem trivial to a federal civilian moocher, but most folks in the U.S. don't appreciate the wasteful spending.

    Keynes has been proven wrong, over and over again. The federal government is inefficient in everything it does. I really appreciated the Dems, in hearings about the Affordable Care Act, holding up Social Security and Medicare are "shining examples." Talk to someone from HHS....Medicare is extremely wasteful. Social Security, in any setting other than the federal government, would be considered illegal, and would lead to action by the SEC and DOJ.

    Again, here we have a staff throwing around "partisan politics" while being extremely partisan. It's not surprising his employer has single digit approval ratings, while the Great Hope has all time lows, approaching Bush-level lows.

    You know, call a spade a spade, let's be partisan. But please Meteor, understand that some (certainly those of us in communications) know that you're just pulling from random talking points, and things you've heard more important Chiefs of Staff say in meetings (if you are privy to those meetings). Many here will see through them, many off the Hill see through them too.
     
  19. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Interestingly enough, there have been more attacks under Obama. Hmmm.

    And how long do I have to wait until this staff brings up "Obama got bin Laden?"

    It would be one of the few things he took responsibility for, and one of the things he was least involved with (besides of course, providing the POTUS stamp of approval).
     
  20. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Lucky Bar is closed at this hour, so the young Staffer has time to comment here. :rolleyes:
     
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