I had the opportunity this morning to attend the Politico Pro Defense launch at the Newseum. I’m hardly a defense industry insider or military expert, but I thought it would be a good event to help me start getting up to speed on some of the issues that impact so many back in Hawaii.
The main topic of conversation was not military strategy or even the impact of the presidential election on the military, though both of those came up. The thing everyone seemed to want to talk about was the looming threat of sequestration — across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress takes steps to postpone or tweak the law. The cuts would be split between defense and non-defense programs.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said Republicans had a choice last year. Democrats offered to include in the sequestration clause either $500 billion in military cuts over 10 years or tax increases, and the GOP chose the former over the latter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, actually seemed to agree with Van Hollen that the choice was a poor one. Graham said he couldn’t imagine the party of Ronald Reagan essentially deciding to put national defense “on the chopping block as the penalty clause.”
Other speakers included Mackenzie Eaglen, a security-focused fellow from the hawkish American Enterprise Institute, and Michael O’Hanlon, a foreign policy fellow from the liberal Brookings Institution. Interestingly, Eaglen and O’Hanlon largely agreed that Congress might find a way to avoid some of the budget cuts in the next few months but is unlikely to strike a “grand bargain” even after the election.
You can read their dueling op-eds published today in Politico here:
Finally, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke about the DoD’s long-term vision for the War On Terror (it will go on “forever,” but America’s getting good at it now); the importance of the Pacific Theater, particularly India, in the country’s long-term security; and the challenges the military faces as it spends taxpayer dollars to keep soldiers safe and keep America competitive globally.
Military issues — and particularly veterans issues — are important to Hawaii. What should I be digging into here on those fronts?
— Michael Levine