Remember last summer when the federal debt ceiling was only $14.3 trillion?


After months of congressional discussion about the underlying cause (more federal spending than federal taxes) a decision was reached:  (1) borrowing authority was raised to $15.2 trillion, (2) some cuts were immediately enacted, (3) additional cuts were to be identified by a “super committee” that the congress would then pass, and most importantly (4) if the Super Committee could not agree on additional cuts or the congress could not pass their recommendation, automatic across-the-board cuts would be made.


Our sovereign debt rating was downgraded from AAA to AA+ on August 5th and if the 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans of the Super Committee can’t find additional trillions, or the whole Congress can’t go along, our debt could be rated still lower, which would make further borrowing more expensive, aggravating the whole problem.  That is why automatic cuts were part of the deal (that was written into law) last summer.


And that is how the Department of Defense could be slashed without regard for strategic purpose.









The Supercommittee and the Darkhorse Regiment

November 2, 2011 9:39 A.M.


By Joel Arends


The 2011 Budget Control Act signed into law by President Obama will break the Marine Corps if the Supercommittee fails in its mission to reduce the budget deficit.


According to a report by the House Armed Services Committee, the Marine Corps will lose 57,000 of its 202,000 Marines and would “require a significant re-evaluation of the Marine Corps’ missions.”


Not only will the Marine Corps shrink to post–Korean War levels, six of 29 amphibious landing ships will be decommissioned, modernization plans for short take-off aircraft shelved, and the reset of equipment for ground forces will be postponed indefinitely.


Before the congressional supercommittee hollows out the Marine Corps, they need to know the story of the Darkhorse Regiment.


For those unfamiliar with the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment — over a year ago 1,000 Marines deployed to the Helmand Province in Afghanistan and suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during ten years of fighting.


This week, National Public Radio featured the men, wives, and families of the 3/5 Darkhorse Regiment. This is how the Marines described their fight with the enemy:


Sgt. Daniel Robert describes it as “hell.” Lance Cpl. Jake Romo calls it “the Wild West.” Lt. Col. Jason Morris says he’d heard it described as “the most dangerous place in Afghanistan.”


The Marines of 3/5 lost 25 brothers while fighting in Sangin in Southern Afghanistan. In response to the mounting losses, the Obama administration’s first reaction was to quit. Then secretary of defense Robert Gates suggested that the Marines should have temporarily pulled out of the area:


The Marines’ top officer, Gen. James Amos, said “absolutely not.


“We don’t do business that way. You would have broken the spirit of that battalion,” Amos says.


Instead of pulling Darkhorse out, the military sent hundreds more Marines, as well as mine-clearing equipment.


General Amos was right — the Marines had to take the fight to the enemy in order to make progress. The results:


Two months went by. By January, things started to get better.


Capt. Chris Esrey remembers that getting “more boots on the deck really increased our patrolling,” while Sgt. Daniel Robert says it became easier for the Marines to get some rest.


The fighting let up. Morris says life returned: markets opened; children were on the streets.


Progress came at a price: 25 dead and 184 wounded, with 34 losing at least one limb over the course of the deployment. But the Marines say it was worth it.


“Every single Marine that was over there — and saw the beginning and saw the end — saw the 180-degree change in that place,” Morris says. “We changed it. We changed it completely.”


“It went from total war-fighting of three months to saving lives and rebuilding homes,” says Sgt. John Decker.


Even Lance Cpl. Baron, who lost one eye, one leg and some of his closest friends, agrees: “It was worth it. If I say it wasn’t worth it, what about my friends that died? I’m disrespecting them, like they died for nothing.”


The war on our enemies won’t be won by quitting, even if temporarily. And we certainly won’t win by hollowing out the Marine Corps while they are still fighting on the battlefield.


— Joel Arends is a veteran of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. He currently serves as a captain in the Army Reserve and as chairman of Veterans for a Strong America.











PostScript:  Letter sent by 33 Republican senators to the Super Committee on November 3, 2011.




update, November 21

News Release  969-11,

a statement by SecDef Panetta:


The failure of the Congressional Supercommittee to reach an agreement on deficit reduction is a setback for the country’s efforts to achieve fiscal responsibility while protecting our national security. If Congress fails to act over the next year, the Department of Defense will face devastating, automatic, across-the-board cuts that will tear a seam in the nation’s defense.

Despite the danger posed by sequestration, I join the President in his call for Congress to avoid an easy way out of this crisis. Congress cannot simply turn off the sequester mechanism, but instead must pass deficit reduction at least equal to the $1.2 trillion it was charged to pass under the Budget Control Act.

In my four decades involved with public service, I have never been more concerned about the ability of Congress to forge common-sense solutions to the nation’s pressing problems. Since becoming Secretary of Defense, I have made it clear that the Department has a responsibility to help the country get its fiscal house in order -- and we are doing that. I have been leading a strategy-driven effort to achieve the more than $450 billion in cuts over 10 years required by the Budget Control Act. We will move ahead with that plan.

But as Secretary of Defense, my primary responsibility is to protect the security of the nation. The half-trillion in additional cuts demanded by sequester would lead to a hollow force incapable of sustaining the missions it is assigned. If implemented, sequester would also jeopardize our ability to provide our troops and their families with the benefits and the support they have been promised. Our troops deserve better, and our nation demands better.