Wednesday, November 23, 2011

11/18/11 RD Bulletin: Super Committee Blame Game Begins

ed. Ethan R. Rosenkranz

State of Play

Legislative: With the Super Committee deadline drawing close, it seems as if earnest negotiations have all but ceased as the blame game over failure picks up.  Republicans and Democrats continue to shoot down each other’s proposals as they differ over revenue and entitlement spending.  And leadership seems loathe to intervene.  At this point, it remains unclear how much of the back-and-forth is actual negotiation versus political maneuvering.  Speaker John Boehner has ruled out using war savings to cover spending items, such as a job-creation proposal, however it remains to be seen if he would allow war savings to count toward the Super Committee’s elusive $1.2 trillion deficit reduction target. 

With current funding for the government set to expire today, President Obama will sign into law a mini-omnibus appropriations bill that will keep government’s doors open through December 16.  The Senate had planned on moving forward with another mini-omnibus appropriations measure that would have included the Energy-Water, Legislative Branch, and State and Foreign Operations.  However, controversial amendments to the latter two bills may force the Senate to proceed only with the Energy-Water portion, which includes funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration.  Alternatively, Congress may abandon the “mini-bus” strategy altogether and simply lump the remaining nine spending bills into a final omnibus appropriations bill for FY12. 

Executive: Traveling in Asia this week, President Obama announced that the United States will be stationing 2,500 marines in Darwin, Australia, ostensibly to keep pressure on the People’s Republic of China and shore up U.S.-Asian alliances.  The President also pledged that looming defense cuts would not impact the U.S. military’s presence in Asia.  The White House has issued a veto threat over detainee provisions in the defense authorization bill, which the Senate will try to complete following the Thanksgiving recess.  MEADS, the troubled missile program intended to replace the Patriot missile, completed its first successful test flight in New Mexico yesterday. 


Dr. Korb deconstructs Panetta’s recent fear letter and points out that $1 trillion in cuts to defense over ten years would still allow for a twenty percent increase in DoD’s budget. 

National Interest: Panetta vs. Obama
Benjamin Friedman believes Sec. Panetta is undermining Obama ability to politically engage Republicans over the issue of sequestration following the Super Committee’s likely failure.  (11/17/11)

Dr. Korb argues that if defense manufacturers really cared about creating U.S. jobs, then they’d allow the government to spend decreasing resources on more robust forms of economic stimulus and would do more to support “Buy America” initiatives.  (11/16/11)  

Christopher Preble opines that the Pentagon needs a realistic strategy that prioritizes America’s global threats and addresses them within its fiscal limits.  (11/16/11)  

Other News and Commentary

Top Pentagon officials acknowledge that the U.S. will abandon its counter-insurgency strategy as it turns its attention to the Asia-Pacific region.  (11/17/11)

In the event that the Super Committee fails, the Pentagon has asked for flexibility in enacting $600 billion in sequestration savings so that cuts are not uniform and across-the-board.  (11/17/11)

The Pentagon has not begun planning on what it would do if the Super Committee fails and $600 billion in sequestration cuts become a reality.  (11/17/11)

During debate on the defense authorization bill which would allow DoD to increase Tricare fees in the future, Senator McCain reiterated his support for implementing enrollment fees for some retirees and banning retirees from enrolling in Tricare Prime.  (11/17/11)

Speaking in Australia this week, the President pledged that “reductions in U.S. defense spending will not… come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.”  (11/17/11)

FPI has issued a “fact” sheet on defense spending, which amongst other things, claims that the Obama Administration has already cut defense funding by $850 billion.  (11/17/11)

Unnamed Navy personnel believe the White House’s plan to cut procurement of the Ohio-class replacement submarine won’t actually save money.  (11/16/11)

Although the DDG51 was originally restarted as a cost-saving measure, the new ships could end up costing double their initial projected cost.  (11/16/11)

Spencer Ackerman debunks five common scare-tactics emanating from Panetta’s recent letter to Sens. McCain and Graham.  (11/16/11)

National Journal: A Nightmare for Democrats?
A look at the political calculations that may come into play if the Super Committee fails and defense sequestration becomes a likelihood.  (11/16/11) 

Philip Ewing points out that, even before the Budget Control Act, the Pentagon couldn’t afford the military hardware it planned to purchase in the coming decades making Panetta’s warnings about a “hollow force” that much more hollow.  (11/16/11)

Dov Zakheim wants the Super Committee to fail because history shows that Congress doesn’t allow sequestration cuts to materialize.  (11/11/11)

Reports and Publications:

U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission: 2011 Report to Congress (November, 2011)


At 10:00 am on November 21, Brookings will host a discussion on the budget deficit and future of the American economy featuring former CBO Director Alice Rivlin and Michael O’Hanlon, author of The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in the Age of Austerity.