Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bring On The Sequester

The Republic has wrestled with its fiscal incompetence for some time now, and in the process created the monstrosity of "sequester" in order to create a gun of sufficient size against which each party's head would be pressed in order to ensure a coherent solution.  In the meantime, we had a National Election in which the people voted to continue divided government.  It would be improper to state that the American people chose the sequester, but it would not be improper to infer that they are complicit in bringing it on.  We get the government we deserve, and right about now we deserve what we are getting.

Therefore, I say, bring it on.  I know this is an intemperate stance, I realize I will receive criticism from several quarters, and I get that many of our national leaders disagree with me, the latest of whom (Secretary Panetta) today on Meet The Press called "shameful" the possibility that it might happen. 

But I sense we've reached the end of the line on reasoned compromise, with both parties held hostage by their more "fringey" elements, and no great threat on the horizon to create a sense of urgency.  While many of us believe a rising China is something to be wary of and something for which to be prepared, it is difficult to make that case for the immediate future.  Many people believe that we are beginning to put the great financial crisis of 2007-2011 behind us, so no great domestic crisis looms on the immediate horizon.

Both the debt bomb and the ascendance of China are in the "too hard" and "too far away" category, and so our elected leaders will have the compromise that they were unable to reach in a reasoned manner forced upon them by a suicide pact fitted by themselves.

That is however, overly dramatic, especially within DoD.  The magnitude of the cuts--roughly $60B a year for ten years, is serious, and it will force (or at least SHOULD force) new thinking.  But the manner in which those cuts are directed--basically horizontal cuts across most accounts--is the legislated instantiation of the folly of Jointness, and it will create a shrunken version of the military we have today; less capable, smaller, and able to impact events in fewer places. 

This is why every time I hear someone in the Pentagon talk about QDR 2014 as "QDR-lite"--pointing to the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance as having already answered most of the questions--I shake my head in disbelief.  If anything, QDR14 should be the most consequential QDR since Congress created the mandate.  We have not--since the fall of the Berlin Wall--had a greater need for strategic thinking on a grand scale.  Congress must not allow DoD to slow-roll them on this front. 

And so, bring on the sequester. Perhaps it will be enough to force both sides of the Potomac to engage in real strategic thinking and the making of tough choices.  If it doesn't, well then in the course of just a few short months, the incredible incompetence of our political class will result in nearly $2T of debt relief over ten years, which is not to be sneezed at. 

We get the government we deserve.

Bryan McGrath

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