Sen. Kyl's Read on the GOP: Defense Cuts Are Palatable

Slashing the Pentagon budget is the most obvious way to reduce our outlays, and would still leave us outspending the world by a mile

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In a radio interview Monday, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl explained his thinking about the Republican Party and what it must do to win election in 2012. Preventing a default on the debt is crucial, the Republican said, because President Obama is going to own the bad economy unless he can find a way to blame the GOP for crashing it. He also said Republicans will lose the election if they vote to increase taxes.

Then he provided an interesting nugget:

I wish I could say that I was confident we would lose the elections if we reduced Defense spending. I'm afraid we have been asleep at the switch making the argument that we've got to protect Defense. When I look around, I mean, I go down to the floor and I give speeches saying we cannot cut Defense spending, and I look around and I don't see anybody on the floor helping me, Democrat or Republican, and that is a huge concern.

And over at Foreign Policy, Dov Zakheim says this:

President Obama has made it very clear that he sees the defense budget as a major contributor to however many trillions in program cuts that a debt ceiling deal will require. It was only months ago that he announced that he would seek $400 billion in cuts over twelve years. It now appears that his target is, at a minimum, twice that amount, and it could reach a trillion -- and that over a decade.

Even the industry locals in greater Washington DC are starting to worry:

A job with a defense contractor was once a prized -- and stable -- position in the Washington region. But top Pentagon officials have called on defense contractors to trim their costs and have made cuts to some large programs. The push for efficiency has rippled through the defense industry, prompting some firms to cut back their workforce and generating concerns that some of the industry's most skilled employees and prospects will reconsider their career options.

"The apprehension in the sector is generalized right now -- nobody really feels like they're safe," said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant at the Lexington Institute. "As a consequence, people across the industry are examining their options and considering what they might do instead of their current jobs."
Perspective: if the United States halved its military budget, and our next closest competitor, China, doubled their budget in the same year, we'd still be spending more money on defense -- roughly $115 billion more. Meanwhile, we're deep in debt, facing trillion dollar deficits, and fighting multiple wars of choice.

Pentagon cuts seem like a no-brainer to me.

Image credit: Reuters
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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