The Washington Post reports today that the Defense Department is cooking up a communications strategy to push back against calls for more reductions in military spending in anticipation of the battle over budget cuts in Washington.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has already been quite vocal, saying — without offering any evidence — that the $600 billion cuts in national security spending that would result if the debt ceiling deal’s so-called trigger mechanism takes effect would be a “doomsday mechanism,” “dangerous,” and “devastating.”
The Post reports that according to internal memos, the Pentagon will rely on a similar strategy but also offer some specifics, namely that the trigger scenario would result in “only enough force presence for two theaters and 1.5 major conflicts,” as well as “the smallest Navy fleet since 1915.” But as the Post notes, this simply isn’t true:
Both claims are highly misleading, if not downright false. In its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon concluded that it no longer made strategic sense to prepare to fight two major conventional wars at the same time, but rather to plan for a variety of conflicts of different sizes.
And the Navy, with 285 ships and submarines on active duty, has already shrunk almost to its smallest fleet size since World War I (the nadir came in 2007, when it had 278 ships on active duty). It’s still exponentially bigger and more powerful, by any measure, than any other naval force in the world.
A Pentagon official even admitted that the talking points are bogus, saying they are only a draft and “very rough.” “They’re not accurate,” he acknowledged. “We didn’t think we could responsibly say that.”
Indeed, as CAP’s Larry Korb pointed out, far from a “doomsday” scenario, even if the defense budget were reduced by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, that would “allow the Pentagon to spend at its 2007 level for the next decade.”