Cheney: Obama Would Rather Fund Food Stamps Than the Military
Monday, February 24, 2014 08:25 PM
By: Greg Richter and Cathy Burke
The military cuts announced Monday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will hurt future presidents' ability to protect the country, says former Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I've obviously not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama, but this really is over the top. It does enormous long-term damage to our military," Cheney said Monday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity." "They act as though it's like highway spending in that you can turn it on and off."
The cuts, which would reduce the military to pre-World War II levels, would have a huge impact on the ability of presidents to deal with future crises, he said.
Cheney was President George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the relatively short incursion into Iraq, which had invaded U.S. ally Kuwait over oil. Cheney said the first thing he did after that victory was call former President Ronald Reagan and thank him for building up the military in the 1980s.
"I can guarantee you there's never going to be a call from a future secretary of defense to Obama to thank him for what he's done to the military, Cheney said.
The cuts are not driven by changes in world circumstances, Cheney said, but by budget considerations.
"He'd much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops," he told Hannity.
Cheney was just one of the many conservatives Monday who issued dire warnings about the planned cuts.
The Pentagon got it backwards, said to Lt. Col. Oliver North, who was among a chorus of critics.
"Instead of deciding who our enemies are and who our adversaries are and building a force capable of dealing with both, what they've done is they've picked a number and then they backed into a budget," North told Fox News Channel's "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren."
North also said he's worried proposed cuts in pay raises, tax-free housing allowances, the commissary subsidy, and the health insurance program will force married soldiers out of service.
The reductions, previewed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Monday, would cut military levels to pre-9/11 levels, even as terror threats persist.
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, an esteemed 38-year career veteran, warned fiscal conservatism must not jeopardize lives or preparedness — and urged a commitment to continue training troops with modern methods.
"We cannot go back to a pre-World War II Army with a bunch of people marching around with broomsticks on their shoulders doing right face and right shoulder arms," he told CNN's "The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer."
"My heart goes out to the Army," he said, adding however, he believed the Army is adaptable enough to adjust to the new budget realities.
"I think that given the budget priorities for the country, the fact you can't raise taxes . . . where we are right now coming out of Afghanistan, I think these proposals make sense," Clark conceded. "We do have to pivot our forces. We have significant increase in risk in the western Pacific."
The personnel cuts to the Army National Guard and Army Reserve were blasted by retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, president of the National Guard Association of the United States.
"We are disappointed, but hardly surprised, that today’s Pentagon budget preview ignores the advice of Congress and the nation’s governors that the National Guard should be more of a solution to the fiscal challenges facing our nation’s military," Hargett said in a statement, Defense News reported.
"And we are angered by continuing comments, such as those in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s prepared text, that National Guard units ‘complement’ active forces," he said.
"For the last 12-plus years, Army and Air National Guard units have been nothing less than integral to the Army and Air Force accomplishing their missions around the globe. Service and Pentagon leaders have said as much countless times."
Washington state Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, demanded the remaining eight years of sequestration reductions leave defense spending alone.
"In a challenging and dangerous world, the Department of Defense is tasked with providing for national security, but Congress continues to fail to provide our military leaders with financial security and stability," Smith said in a statement, Defense News reported.
"Sequestration imposed mindless cuts that hurt military readiness in fiscal year 2013," Smith said. "If Congress does not act, sequestration will go back into effect in fiscal year 2016 and beyond. Secretary Hagel clearly articulated that future uncertainty is making it difficult for the department to plan."
Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, railed at what he called President Obama's planned attack on the military.
"I think this is by design," Riley said on Fox News Channel's "Special Report With Bret Baier."
"Obama purposely picked a Republican defense secretary to give him cover while he went about reducing the size of our military.
"This is no accident. Chuck Hagel was willing to play the role of the useful idiot."
Riley charged budget savings had nothing to do with addressing inefficiencies in the military — and everything to do with funding Obamacare.
Hagel said the proposed budget includes $115 billion more in spending than is currently authorized in mandated levels under sequestration — a rise that triggered criticism from William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
"From the proposal to break the caps starting in FY 2016 to the proposal for 'an investment fund' that would undo most of the cuts required by the sequester, the Obama administration is attempting to walk away from needed Pentagon budget reductions," Hartung told Defense News.
"The truth is that there is still plenty to cut while maintaining the strongest military force in the world."
One unnamed senior military official warned if the cuts pass Congress, it will put the military’s readiness at risk.
"It’s hard to cut this amount of money out of anything and expect people to cheer about it," the official told Defense News.
"For every efficiency that’s denied, every program cut that’s overturned, every element of old force structure or unnecessary base structure we’re required to keep, there’s going to have to be a decrease in readiness or modernization somewhere else that will only add to risk that we might be taking in the future."