NSN Daily Update - 7/8/08
Posted by The National Security Network
John McCain’s National Security Budget Is A Deficit Buster That Has Massive Policy Implications
John McCain’s announcement yesterday that his administration “will balance the budget by the end of his first term” was met with intense skepticism and derision. The New York Times noted that McCain “is unlikely to achieve his goal of balancing the federal budget by 2013, economists and fiscal experts say.” Yet, receiving less attention are the implications of his national security proposals on the federal budget. Days after attacking Barack Obama on Iraq, McCain seemed to indicate a significant change of his own position, as his economic projections for reducing the deficit are premised on the notion that there will be significantly fewer troops in Iraq. Additionally, McCain has called for a massive expansion of the ground forces and has failed to provide any specifics on which weapons programs he intends to cut and called for eliminating earmarks including much of the foreign assistance budget (e.g. Israel). If taken seriously, McCain’s proposals entail significant policy shifts with profound national security implications. If not, McCain’s proposals will explode the deficit.
McCain’s economic plans suggest significant and rapid troop withdrawals from Iraq, Afghanistan. To pay down the deficit, the McCain campaign said, “The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit. Since all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction.” Decreasing America's financial commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan can only occur by significantly reducing the U.S. force presence in Iraq. In order to meet the target of eliminating the deficit by 2013, troop levels would have to be substantially lowered in Iraq fairly early on in the McCain administration in order to have any impact on the deficit prior to 2013. [Politico, 7/7/08, Huffington Post, 7/7/08]
McCain calls for a massive increase in the size of the military – a proposal that would be incredibly expensive and near impossible to achieve as long as U.S. forces remain in Iraq. In his Foreign Affairs article last winter McCain called for expanding the ground forces by an additional 150,000 troops on top of the 92,000 expansion already taking place. “As president, I will increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps from the currently planned level of roughly 750,000 troops to 900,000 troops. Enhancing recruitment will require more resources and will take time, but it must be done as soon as possible.” This proposal is incredibly expensive. The CBO estimates that increasing the ground forces to the current goal of about 750,000 would cost about $110 billion over seven years this is roughly $15 billion per year. Using the same projections, increasing the size of the ground forces by an additional 150,000 over this same period would cost at least an additional $25 billion per year. Attracting that many more volunteers would likely require significant funding, since the ground forces, especially the Army, have struggled to meet recruiting and retention goals throughout the war in Iraq and have had to lower standards and increase enlistment incentives. Further expansion may not be achievable without lowering standards and substantially increasing incentives to enlist, leading many to advocate a slower expansion. [Foreign Affairs, 11-12/08, CBO, 4/16/07, NSN 5/08]
McCain promises to cut procurement of military systems to balance budget, without any indication of which systems he will cut. McCain’s economic plan as presented on his website supports “[cutting] wasteful spending in defense programs” and his top economic adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, assumes that “cuts in defense spending could make up for reducing corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%.” McCain, however, has failed to mention precisely which programs he would cut. As ranking member of the Armed Services Committee McCain presumably has some understanding of which programs he will eliminate. Since McCain plans to cut defense spending to offset revenue losses from tax cuts, as well as offset his massive expansion of the military, the cuts in weapons procurement would likely be enormous and could endanger efforts to modernize the military. [JohnMcCain.com, Forbes 6/6/08]
McCain's plan to end earmarks puts integral national security programs in peril. McCain pledged “I will veto every bill with earmarks, until the Congress stops sending bills with earmarks” noting that this would cut $65 billion. Yet this would include a substantial amount of the foreign assistance budget including aid to Israel. [Think Progress 4/16/08, Democracy Arsenal, 4/18/08]
Following Prime Minister Maliki’s call for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops, two leading members of Congress proposed an extension of the UN mandate as a viable short term solution to the problem of continued troop deployment and the status of forces in Iraq. National Security Network addressed Maliki’s comments in our Daily brief yesterday.
Two disturbing stories grabbed the headlines today about the severe impact of PTSD on our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A recent study shows that the number of troops suffering from PTSD could be higher than the DoD has indicated, and stresses the importance of looking at PTSD as a war injury rather than a mental illness.
Despite fierce domestic opposition, the Czech government plans to sign an agreement on the highly unpopular US missile defense system with Secretary Rice. Experts close to NSN believe that this could pose a serious threat to the position of the government in power.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday travelled to the Group of Eight summit in Japan to sign a long awaited nuclear deal with the US. The new-found conviction is due to a shift in the political landscape, which has temporarily restored a majority for the ruling Congress party, but has exposed a variety of vulnerabilities that could endanger the fragile political bargain.