Just a Sliver

I really, really have a hard time taking this seriously:

After months of refusing to plan for how the Pentagon budget could or should be trimmed further, senior Defense Department officials have begun examining in earnest how the military would respond to automatic spending reductions if a budget deal eludes President Obama and Congress past the end of the year.

Officially, senior Pentagon officials say their budget planning efforts, which began earlier this week, were set off by an order from the Office of Management and Budget.

But as the number of days in which to reach a deal dwindles, it seems clear that the government bureaucracy has surrendered to the practical impulse for prudent planning.
“Initial planning has begun on the ‘fiscal cliff,’ ” George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said Friday, using the Washington term of choice for the automatic, across-the-board cuts that would be ordered if there is no deal on taxes and spending.

The Pentagon could face reductions of $500 billion over the next 10 years, representing roughly 5 to 8 percent of its budget.

Am I really supposed to be worried about the security of this nation just because the Pentagon might have to shave off a tiny fragment of its bloated and mammoth budget. Hell, even Republicans, before they went completely bonkers, back in the days of the 500 dollar hammers nonsense, would have agreed you could take 5% out of the budget and nothing bad would happen.

Personally, I’m just going to rely on the circumcision rule, which states you can safely lop 5% off of anything.

54 replies
  1. 1
    Smiling Mortician says:

    Oh, good. A circumcision thread.

  2. 2
    Enhanced Mooching Techniques says:

    We’d probably get 5% just by getting out of Afghanistan.

  3. 3
    Yutsano says:

    Isn’t there a massive defence appropriation bill going through Congress right now? Last number I saw was around $610 billion.

  4. 4
    Svensker says:

    Repubs claim it’s the Lorena Bobbit plan!

  5. 5
    Chris says:

    God damn it, DOD, take it out of the allowance of every third world thugocracy that depends on our military aid to stay afloat.

    Or just call your corporate contractor pals and have them call their pet congressmen to force them to be reasonable, and the issue won’t even arise. Your choice.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    Meh. I didn’t see much whining or hyperventilating in the Times piece. Seems like just another “fiscal cliff” piece because that’s what’s hot in the MSM right now.

  7. 7
    cathyx says:

    But any cut will leave the US vulnerable to a terrorist attack. (I typed that with a straight face, too.)

  8. 8
    Swag says:

    It’s times like these that we need Ronnie and Tip.

  9. 9
    Full Metal Wingnut says:

    But then how will we invade Syria and Iran? We need to let the Republicans and the m-i complex have their wet dreams

  10. 10
    General Stuck says:

    The GAO has deemed the Pentagon unauditable with at least a trillion dollars unaccounted for. Nobody has a clue where the money went in that black hole of depravity. And it is too bad, and one more nail in our national coffin, that the republicans now do not care about 500 dollar hammers, nor anything but kneejerk opposing liberals and being bagmen for the MIC and all the other plutocrats in their castles.

  11. 11
    redshirt says:

    We must be able to fight 5 full scale wars simultaneously!

  12. 12
    Scott says:

    I work in DoD and we have been doing the budget cutting exercises for months. The idea that we just started planning is BS.

  13. 13
    cathyx says:

    @Scott: But going from 2 ply toilet paper to 1 ply doesn’t count.

  14. 14
    BrianX says:

    Too bad you can’t sell off slightly used plutonium.

  15. 15
    liberal says:

    I think I posted that question here, too—I saw something about that, and I haven’t seen anything discussing how that interacts with the fiscal cliff crap.

  16. 16
    The Dangerman says:

    …the circumcision rule, which states you can safely lop 5% off of anything.

    After the Bronze Age, sure; during the Stone Age, circumcision might have been a little less precise.


  17. 17
    redshirt says:

    War! It’s wafer thin.

  18. 18
    ruemara says:

    I guess we have to cancel all those expensive vendor contracts. Wait, I work in government, that never happens. Gut a pension, cut an employee, spend more on a contract! It all comes out in the (white)wash.

  19. 19
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Freedom can’t be purchased for 5% off.

  20. 20
    Scott says:

    @cathyx: LOL. I don’t know about the number of plies but the paper seems to have wood shavings floating in it.

  21. 21
    JWL says:

    Funny, that 5% figure. One of the reasons I approved Carter in ’76 was his pledge to slash defense spending.. which he instead promptly raised by 5% in one of his first budgets.

  22. 22
    👽 Martin says:

    Am I really supposed to be worried about the security of this nation just because the Pentagon might have to shave off a tiny fragment of its bloated and mammoth budget.

    A bit. The problem isn’t the $500B. The problem is where the $500B falls. If they’re making strategic cuts to procurement programs, closing bases, that’s fine. If they’re just cutting every contract by 5%, that’s very bad. We’re going to fuck up some pretty important things doing that.

    If they just go back and structure that $500B in a sensible way, sign me up. Hell, double it and I’m even more on board. But don’t cut arbitrarily – and this is arbitrary. Same deal with Medicare.

  23. 23
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Personally, I’m just going to rely on the circumcision rule, which states you can safely lop 5% off of anything.

    Let me remind you that this will inevitably reduce the sensitivity and pleasure with which our neocon punditry can advocate for us to penetrate foreign lands and impregnate them with our precious ideological, err, fluids.

    Democratizing just won’t be as much fun any more.

  24. 24
    redshirt says:

    Debate/discuss: Pax Americana does indeed foster a general climate of peace worldwide. And Europe should be paying America directly for this service.

    The long history of European warfare appears to be over, at least for generations. And that’s because America has basically taken over all global security and so Europe can focus instead on high speed rail, education, infrastructure, and other issues which greatly add to their quality of life.

    The same holds generally for Asia, with the Japanese replaced by America in dealing with the mainland, and by securing China as a global trading partner.

    There will be no more world wars as long as America holds such a position of supremacy, and this benefits the entire world, generally. Which we as Americans pay for. Hooray, us!

  25. 25
    g says:

    Um, 5%? That’s freaking them out? Municipalities and public agencies routinely plan 5%, 10% and sometimes larger reductions. Wimps.

  26. 26
    mclaren says:

    Cole, you’re being stupid. Pentagon military funding will not be cut. Pentagon funding will never be cut.

    Shithole America is now a garrison state, and the military runs it. When the fiscal cliff hits, social security may be cut, medicare may be cut, Washington D.C. may have to shut its streetlights off, the Treasury may stop paying interest on T-bills…but on thing that will never ever happen is the Pentagon’s funding going down.

    On the contrary: when the fiscal cliff hits, the Pentagon’s funding will go up. Hear it now, believe it later.

    Shithole America is militarized. Our police are militarized, our train stations are militarized, our bus terminals are militarized, we have muggers with badges wandering around with automatic weapons and flak jackets and kevlar helmets around every public concourse, and according to the Marine Corps Gazette, the marines have now formed the first law enforcement battalion:

    The Marine Corps has created its first law enforcement battalions — a lean, specialized force of military police officers that it hopes can quickly deploy worldwide to help investigate crimes from terrorism to drug trafficking and train fledgling security forces in allied nations.

    America is so goddamn militarized, the police are now turning into actual real-live soldiers. Not just paramilitary: actual marines, real jarheads in uniform.

    If you think the fiscal cliff will cause the Pentagon to lose even one single dime in funding, you don’t know what country you’re living in, buddy. This is Shithole America, a military garrison state with some civilians in congress and in the White House as window dressing. After 9/11, America descended into de facto martial law. America is now an armed camp, and will only get more militarized.

    The fiscal cliff may cut funding for cancer research or fusion power or federal funding for food for poor children — but it will never ever ever ever cut funding for the military.

    Watch and see. When the fiscal cliff hits, see if I’m wrong and funding to the military gets cut. Never. Gonna. Happen.

  27. 27
    KG says:

    @General Stuck: sounds like the guys from Office Space got a new job and forgot to carry a couple of 1s.

  28. 28
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Scott: What? They’re buying Italian* toilet paper…

    *I had an Aunt who used to complain that Italian tp had wood shavings in it. When she went over to Sicily for any amount of time, she brought American paper with her.

  29. 29
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:


    Debate/discuss: Pax Americana Plutoniuma does indeed foster a general climate of peace worldwide.

    What’s lacking since 1945 is Great Power wars, at least not direct ones (wars by proxy, that is another story). Given that since 1949 if you don’t have nukes by definition you aren’t a Great Power, one could argue that it isn’t so much America that is keeping the peace, but rather nukes more generally.

  30. 30
    Scott says:

    @PurpleGirl: Actually it’s made in Kentucky.

  31. 31
    Mike in NC says:

    I’m just going to rely on the circumcision rule, which states you can safely lop 5% off of anything.

    Cue outrage by Andrew Sullivan in 3-2-1

  32. 32
    NotMax says:

    If SCOTUS strikes down DOMA, maybe the acronym can then transmogrify to Defense of Mohels Association.

  33. 33
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Scott: LOL. When you mentioned the wood shavings I remembered my Aunt Lilly and her complaint about the tp in Italy/Sicily.

  34. 34
    Felonius Monk says:

    By Cole’s Principle of Circumcision then we can safely eliminate 5% of the Wingnuts. OK, Doc. Here’s your scalpel.

  35. 35
    Mike in NC says:


    I had an Aunt who used to complain that Italian tp had wood shavings in it. When she went over to Sicily for any amount of time, she brought American paper with her.

    Heh, I was on a Navy ship whose Supply Officers were so incompetent we once ran out of coffee! Then we deployed to the Persian Gulf and managed to run out of toilet paper, so they made an emergency run to a warehouse in Bahrain and all they could procure was TP with a bright floral print and heavy perfume. I still remember that bizarre incident vividly 30 years later.

  36. 36
    👽 Martin says:

    @Scott: I guess my question is – what amount of your spending is fixed due to contract, etc. and what amount do you have discretion to cut.

    My objection above is based on how budgeting in CA works. We’ve got a zillion voter initiatives and whatnot that fix the number of dollars going in this direction or another. In the end, the legislature really has discretion over maybe 20% of the state budget. If you cut the budget by 5%, they have to make that work out the 20% they control, and so those areas just get massacred while shit spending (prisons) that ought to lose funding (by not locking up every pot user in the state) keep getting money.

    I assume the DOD works this way to a certain degree, but it’s not clear how much. You’re not going to cut much (if any) to support Afghanistan. You’re not going to cut military pay or benefits. Your discretion to cut contracts is limited. Is there enough left to take a 5% haircut without hitting genuinely serious things? I don’t think Congress gives you the authority to just say ‘That F-35, yeah, let’s just forget about that’ and be done with it.

  37. 37
    redshirt says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: It’s a strong argument. But I could argue that it’s only true by virtue of America being in the driver’s seat. The Cold War helped turn a thousand local conflicts into a couple of global ones. This in turn allowed for more centralization of the conflict, resulting in fewer mistakes (see WW1) and better planning. This in turn, post Cold War, has allowed America to wield unprecedented hegemony over the entire planet. And since America is – I say this sincerely – mostly still anti-colonial, we’ve had a far more benign role in the world than other global powers through history. We’d rather incorporate you as part of the American Franchise and fill your streets with McDonalds and MTV than conquer and occupy. Generally!

    Finally, America is the country (ironically!) most exemplary of the Scientific Principle, as it is built into our system to self-correct after extremes. Learn from our mistakes. Improve ourselves – and aye, America is the history of trying to live up with our promise, of freedom and equality for all. Except of course during the times of the glorious Founders this meant rich white men only. And now look at us! Gay marrying!

    Progress in the ideal of fraternity and liberty, despite how the Wingnuts howl.

  38. 38
    Mnemosyne says:

    @👽 Martin:

    You’re not going to cut much (if any) to support Afghanistan.

    Actually, we’re supposed to be cutting in Afghanistan through 2013 in preparation for the scheduled withdrawal in 2014. So planners may be assuming that the greatest savings will be in that withdrawal and the rest of the cuts can be cosmetic or truly unnecessary things.

  39. 39
    cathyx says:

    @mclaren: I hate to feel and sound like a Debbie Downer, but I agree with you 100%.

  40. 40
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    I just hope that all of the gloaters are still gloating when the Zombies take over because the Anti-Zombie Weapons Program was cancelled.

  41. 41
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @👽 Martin: Indeed.

    The OMB published a 394 page .PDF on the cuts in September. They’re mostly across the board. For those who say “5-10% cuts are no big deal”, think about what across-the-board means. Paying 5-10% less on your rent is different from paying 5-10% less for food and entertainment.

    The OMB report is here (394 page .pdf). The DOD sequester percentages are generally 9.4%.


  42. 42
    JGabriel says:


    Isn’t there a massive defence appropriation bill going through Congress right now? Last number I saw was around $610 billion.

    Doesn’t matter if Congress won’t let gov’t pay the bills for the programs they legislated.


  43. 43
    Raven says:

    @mclaren: Delta is red when you are douche bag.

  44. 44
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Oh noes! This may mean that we’re only spending more on defense than the next ten biggest-spending nations put together rather than the next thirteen of them.

  45. 45
    mainmati says:

    I work for a firm that works on environment and clean energy projects in developing countries, mainly for USAID and the agency has basically slowed down any procurements to a crawl because they don’t know what’s going to happen post fiscal slope. The margins for USAID are far smaller, of course, than for DOD. The entire annual USAID budget amounts to a small fleet of jet fighters after all. (Many polls have found the populace thinks foreign aid amounts anywhere from 20% to 50% of the Federal budget. In fact, it is less than 1/2 of 1%.) Our political culture is one of delusion, crazy ideologies and fantasies.

  46. 46
    Heliopause says:

    how the military would respond to automatic spending reductions

    A coup?

  47. 47
    The Sailor says:

    so the Pentagon, like the republicans, are thinking they can hold the country hostage.

    Fuck them both. Yo, Pentagon, just stop buying shit you already say you don’t want.

    republicans, yo, you won’t even feel that tiny tax increase on your millions.

    Did I mention, fuck you?

  48. 48
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    But going from 2 ply toilet paper to 1 ply doesn’t count

    Please. That could save billions.

  49. 49
    mclaren says:


    The DOD sequester percentage will be zero.

    As in: nada. Zip. Bupkiss. Zilch.

    Watch. See what happens.

    I guaran-fucking-tee you that a bevy of congressmen and senators will scramble to pass a bill that automagically exempts the military from any sequestration cuts.

    Everyone else will get cut, but not the U.S. military.

    Hear it now. Believe it later, when it happens.

  50. 50
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @mclaren: If a deal isn’t reached before 1/1/13, the law says that cuts must be made and taxes will rise.

    Sure, the law can be changed, but they’re arguing about how to do that now.

    There’s no grand conspiracy that will protect the DOD if the other parts of the Sequester law remain in place.

    What do I think will happen?

    I do not expect a deal before 1/1/13, so I expect the sequester cuts to start taking effect and the taxes to start rising. However, I expect a deal will be reached by the end of January, so the across-the-board cuts will not fully take effect, and it will be relatively easy to make adjustments as if the “fiscal slope” had never happened.

    The DOD budget is going to be cut over time:

    The $525.4 billion for the base budget includes cuts and other initiatives that will reduce planned spending by $259 billion over the next five years and $487 billion over ten years, levels that are consistent with the Budget Control Act. The budget adjusts programs that develop and procure military equipment; begins to re-size ground forces; slows the growth of compensation and benefit programs; continues to make better use of defense resources by reducing lower-priority programs, and restructures the defense organization to achieve more efficient approaches to doing business.

    Things are changing, believe it or not…



  51. 51

    @👽 Martin:

    If they’re just cutting every contract by 5%, that’s very bad. We’re going to fuck up some pretty important things doing that.

    Assume ~2000 man-hours per year (it’s a nice round number, close enough).

    Now imagine some small program that employs 20 people (there are a lot of them, spread all over the country). That’s 40,000 man-hours. Now cut 5%, all from man-hours. We lose… 2000 man-hours. Or (for this example), one person-year.

    Which lucky worker gets laid off?

    Oh, and the contract end date now has to be either pushed out, or the program scaled back. Neither saves you money in the long run.

    Now imagine some mega-contract with thousands of line workers and support staff. Use 5000 staff, another nice round number. That’s a million person-hours. I won’t bother typing out the math, but cut 5% of those man-hours, and 250 of those 5000 have to go.

    Now imagine this happening in thousands of companies, in every state, all at once. Depending on who you ask, overall it’s somewhere between 500,000 to 2.3 million jobs lost, in 2013 alone.

    We absolutely need cuts, especially now that our two simultaneous land wars in Asia are winding down. But our economy is addicted to the spending… and cold turkey isn’t an option, unless you want massive unemployment.

    Just sayin’.

  52. 52
    redshirt says:

    Make war make wages

  53. 53
    Jason says:

    Thanks to the sequester deal, Obama can do absolutely nothing, and he will achieve the holy grail of progressive politics, cutting the military budget. Expect him to work his ass off to avoid this unthinkable proposition.

  54. 54
    A Farmer says:

    How did that last line of the post not earn a Sully bait tag?

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