Tag Archives: defense spending

Trump raid on military projects produces bipartisan ire

So, the president of the United States has done it.

Donald Trump declared a national emergency where none actually exists. He wants to build The Wall. He is intent on erecting that structure along our southern border to, as he said, stem the flow of human traffickers, drug dealers, murderers, terrorists and assorted riff raff he insists are “pouring” across the border.

That isn’t happening, no matter what the says.

There’s more, though. He wants to pilfer money already appropriated for defense projects to pay for construction of The Wall. That move has produced criticism from unlikely sources, such as from Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Panhandle congressman who once chaired the House Armed Services Committee. Thornberry, now the ranking member of Armed Services, says wall construction is not part of the military mission. Thornberry, who isn’t prone to criticize the president, opposes this initiative.

Congressional Democrats are going to contest the emergency declaration. Of course they oppose Trump’s decision.

The president, though, appears to be miffed that members of Congress who should have stepped up didn’t do as he wished. So he’s conducted this end-around.

The current chairman of the House Armed Services panel, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said this: “It is utterly disrespectful of U.S. national security and the needs of our men and women in uniform, and it further undermines his credibility in requesting the upcoming defense budget.”

That’s the president’s modus operandi. He says he “loves” the military and the men and women who defend the country. However, he is quite willing to undercut their work so he can build The Wall.

Hands off PBS, NPR, Mr. President

Now he’s done it!

The president of the United States has just gored my ox. He has hit me where it hurts. He has taken aim at a government institution I revere.

Donald J. Trump is proposing elimination of public money that goes to National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting … a major arm of the Public Broadcasting Service; also slated for elimination is the National Endowment for the Arts.

Trump proposes zeroing out about $445 million for CPB and NPR. Wiping it out. No more public money for public broadcasting, either radio or television.

“PBS and our nearly 350 member stations, along with our viewers, continue to remind Congress of our strong support among Republican and Democratic voters, in rural and urban areas across every region of the country,” PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger said in a statement.

“We have always had support from both parties in Congress, and will again make clear what the public receives in return for federal funding for public broadcasting,”┬áKerger continued. “The cost of public broadcasting is small, only $1.35 per citizen per year, and the benefits are tangible: increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications and civil discourse.”

So, with that the president wants to eliminate an element of public spending that in the grand scheme amounts to tossing a BB into the ocean, but which brings tangible benefit for millions of Americans.

I have a dog in this particular fight … more or less.

Not long after I left my job in print journalism in the late summer of 2012, I signed on as a freelance blogger for Panhandle PBS, the organization formerly known around the Panhandle as KACV-TV, based at Amarillo College. I wrote about public affairs television. My text was published on Panhandle PBS’s website.

I got great satisfaction writing the blog and I enjoyed my relationship with the public TV station immensely. It ended when the station went through some changes and decided to divert its “resources” toward more on-air production of local programming.

We bid each other adieu. However, I continue to love PBS and what it brings to the quality of life of all Americans, especially to those of us in the Texas Panhandle. Its programming features some first-rate, top-drawer, high-level production. Ken Burns’s documentary series on the Dust Bowl — and its impact on the High Plains region — will remain with me for as long as I draw breath.

I would hate with every fiber of my being seeing the government remove itself from that kind of programming.

And for what purpose? So we can buy more bombs, missiles and other weapons of war — as if we don’t have enough of it already to destroy Planet Earth a billion times over.

Am I angry over this budget proposal? You’re damn right I am!

Do not do this, Mr. President and Congress.

At least Trump is beginning to sound ‘presidential’

Donald J. Trump cleared a big hurdle — for him anyway — while he spoke to the nation Tuesday night.

He managed to sound like someone who holds the position he occupies; the president of the United States sounded presidential.

And I give him praise for that. The tone of his voice was measured; he sounded calm; he sounded like a man who well might be starting to grasp the enormous challenges he faces in running a government — and learning that it ain’t a thing like running a business.

However, let’s get past the style and look for a brief moment at the substance of what he said.

He ticked off virtually all the campaign hot-button themes he hit on while running for the presidency. What he has yet to tell us is how in the world he intends to do all the things he has promised to do.

Repeal the Affordable Care Act? Build a “great, great wall across our southern border”? Make our international allies pay for the protection we offer them? Negotiate better trade deals? Do better by our veterans? Find a way to pay for the huge increase in defense spending? Which domestic programs will he cut?

There wasn’t a scintilla of detail in any of it.

I expect it will come. I hope it is soon. I’m on pins and needles waiting to hear how he intends — precisely, specifically — to “make America great again.”

The bar for this president was set pretty low. Sounding presidential shouldn’t be all that difficult for someone who had just won a national election. Until his speech Tuesday night, though, Donald Trump had failed to clear even that low bar. Not even during his inaugural did he sound like a man who had just grasped the reins of power of the greatest nation on the planet. He damn sure doesn’t sound presidential when he fires off early-morning tweets about TV ratings, or late-night comics’ criticism of him.

He managed to sound like a president while standing in front of that joint congressional session.

I want to reiterate this final point: I want Donald Trump to succeed. As it was stated in the film “Apollo 13,” failure is not an option. The consequences of┬áa presidential failure have this way of splashing over all the rest of us.

A friend of mine asked me this morning: What should Trump do to bring the Democrats on board?

Here’s how I responded: He ought to invite the entire congressional leadership team to the White House, sit them all down around a big table and ask this two-part question: What can I do to meet you halfway on these big themes … and what will you do to ensure that we can find┬ácommon ground?

If the one-time business mogul can grasp the notion that governance requires a partnership between those with different ideological stripes, then I believe success is achievable.

He started Tuesday night at least by sounding like the head of state.

Troop levels to drop; U.S. is still No. 1

U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry is worried about reductions in the number of men and women serving in the U.S. Army.

The Pentagon plans to cut the troop strength to 450,000 by September 2017. Thornberry suggested recently that the reduction is part of an on-going strategy to┬áslash defense spending that’s been enacted since the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency.

He’s concerned about it. So, too, are some in the media, such as the Amarillo Globe-News, which opined on Friday that the troop reduction “is bad news.” It cited “ongoing issues related to Russia and Iran, to name but a couple.”

Then the paper decided to take a cheap shot by noting that “the federal government only spends more than $70 billion a year on food stamps.”

I think a broader question ought to be this: Are we still the world’s No. 1 military power? Yes … by a country mile.

Let us also ponder: Does a reduction in the troop levels make us less able to defend ourselves against terrorists? Given tremendous advances in technology, the use of drones (which this week killed another leading Islamic State officer), our immense intelligence capability and the tremendous skill that our troops employ in the field, we absolutely are able to defend ourselves.

Thornberry wrote: “I have consistently warned about the size and pace of reductions in both end strength and defense spending and the negative impact on our country’s national security.”

Does the presence of more men and women in uniform deter terrorists from striking at us? Do the Islamic State and al-Qaeda leaders really consider the United States defense establishment — taken in its entirety — to be less capable of defending the world’s strongest nation than it was, say, when the 9/11 attacks occurred more than a dozen years ago?

The United States remains by far the pre-eminent military power on the planet.

If we are going to seek some sort of fiscal responsibility, which Thornberry and others in Congress keep insisting we should, then we must look at all aspects of the federal budget.

The day we cannot┬ástrike hard at those who seek to do us harm is the day I’ll join the doomsday chorus that includes Chairman Thornberry. We aren’t at that┬ápoint. Nor do I expect us to get there.

Are we really a second-rate power?

You hear it frequently these days from right-wing talking heads, politicians and a few “expert observers” that the United States is in danger of becoming a second-rate military power.

They express grave concern that the commander in chief, Barack Obama, seeks to “deliberately” reduce America’s standing in the world because of some trumped-up “anti-American bias” they’ve attached to the man.

I heard U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry express those concerns recently, although he did so with a good measure of class and decorum. He isn’t┬ápounding on┬áthe same drum that many lunatics on the right are beating.

Thornberry — who’s set to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next year — did suggest that China is growing its defense budge at a far greater rate than the United States and is concerned that the communist dictatorship may be about to surpass us as the pre-eminent military power on Earth.

He’s not alone in saying these things.

I dug into my World Almanac and Book of Facts and found a few interesting numbers. They relate to defense spending.

In 2012, China spent just a shade less than $90 billion on its defense establishment; Russia — which 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said is our “No. 1 geopolitical adversary” — spent $52 billion. That’s around $142 billion spent between these two fearsome foes.

The U.S. defense budget for 2012? $739 billion.

Are the Russians and Chinese getting so much more bang for the buck — pardon the pun — that we should worry that either of them is going to surpass us in military strength? I hardly think that’s the case.

I totally get, however, that in this new world of vaguely defined enemies and an international war against terror, that it is next to┬ámeaningless to measure military strength vis a vis our “traditional” foes.

Let’s cool our jets just a bit, though, when suggesting that the United States of America is no longer capable of defending itself against any foe.

We’re still pouring lots of money into our national defense and we’re still getting a damn good return on that investment.