The Associated Press has a write-up today on defense and foreign aid cuts in the budget deal Congress and the White House reached last week which appears to come to the conclusion that it was a big victory for those calling for a reduction in military spending:
Tea partyers insistent on cutting military spending and foreign aid will find plenty to like in the deal struck by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. […]
The hard-fought deal negotiated by the president, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., calls for $513 billion for defense, a cut of $18.1 billion from what the administration envisioned but $5 billion more than last year’s amount. War costs for Iraq and Afghanistan would be covered separately at a cost of $158 billion.
Except there’s one problem. The budget deal didn’t cut $18.1 billion in military spending from what the Obama administration envisioned. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for at least $540 billion for FY2011 and this budget deal funds DOD “just north of $530 billion” a figure that includes military construction, which the AP seems to have left out. Thus, as Defense News noted yesterday, “defense spending is left relatively untouched” in this budget deal. Moreover, as the AP correctly noted, the overall baseline budget is an increase of $5 billion from last year. How would deficit and debt hawks find “plenty to like” in that?
The AP also ignores the lopsided nature of the deal’s DOD spending versus State Department and foreign aid cuts. The $8.4 billion cut to the foreign affairs budget represents a 14 percent reduction. If the budget deal subjected DOD to the same level, the Pentagon would have lost nearly $80 billion. And while the AP highlighted some of the military programs that would be scrapped — many of which came with strong bipartisan and Pentagon support — it largely ignored how reductions in foreign affairs spending will effect U.S. diplomacy. CAP’s Sarah Margon has some details:
[C]hopping off $122 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s operating expenses and more than $1.4 billion from the State Department’s Economic Support Fund may cost us the ability to help critical countries transition to democracy, including Egypt and Tunisia. Turning our back on such assistance now is particularly problematic given how vulnerable nascent democracies in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as elsewhere, are to upheaval and violence.
“Democracy is about compromise. But it’s also about maintaining balance amidst evolving priorities,” Margon notes, adding, “Government officials patting themselves on the back for reaching a compromise budget that does nothing to address the bloat in military spending would do well to remember that.”