In their current campaign against automatic military spending cuts, Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) claim the reductions will be “devastating” to the U.S. military. But when asked to provide specifics on that claim on CNN this morning, McCain came up empty:
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Senator McCain, let’s start with you, if we can. The $500 billion cut over the next 10 years. You’ve had said that sequestration would be devastating. Give me a list of why?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, it’s on top of another $460 billion that is already being cut. Second of all, it’s the view of Secretary Panetta and our uniform leaders who have used words like devastating, impossible to carry out our national security, challenge — meet those security challenges in the most graphic terms they have used as to the effects of these cuts.
And not to mention the job losses — the over a million jobs that would be lost and the billions of dollars also in defense industry so it’s a very serious situation.
Watch the clip:
Panetta does repeatedly say the military spending sequester would be “devastating” to the U.S. military but he has also failed to explain why. Panetta’s most specific remark on this point has been to say that the U.S. would have to reduce its presence in Latin America and Africa — i.e. hardly a “devastating” blow to the military or U.S. security. Moreover, a recent non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report found that the automatic spending cuts would bring the Pentagon’s budget back to what it spent in 2006.
As for McCain’s jobs argument, defense industry CEOs and other experts have said warnings that the military spending cuts will damage the economy and cause massive layoffs are “overblown.” And if you’re going to argue that federal spending is necessary to create jobs — a concept Republicans are now embracing in order to protect the nation’s bloated military budget — it’s probably better to, as one study has found, try to direct those dollars away from the Pentagon toward other domestic priorities.