Donald Rumsfeld warned incoming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta not to acquiesce to the White House or Congress on deep cuts to defense spending – but also called for controversial increases in military health care premiums and the end of congressional earmarks in order to save money.
“The principal challenge for Mr. Panetta, beyond seeing a successful conclusion to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, will be fending off White House and congressional raids on national security spending,” writes the former Secretary of Defense in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.
In fact, argues Rumsfeld, there has been a pattern of slashing defense spending after wars – a mistake each time.
“Our country has taken an ax to our national security budget—both the Defense Department and the intelligence community—after every war of the 20th century. And every time we later regretted it,” Rumsfeld wrote.
Obama has called for cuts of $400 billion, but this week pushed for even larger cuts. “[Outgoing Secretary of Defense] Bob Gates has already done a good job identifying $400 billion in cuts, but we’re going to do more,” the president said on Wednesday.
Although Rumsfeld himself admits the political liability of raising health care premiums on veterans, he advocates for them all the same.
“The greatest economies can be found in areas that contain the greatest political peril: military health care and personnel… Individual military retirees under 65 currently pay less than $20 in monthly premiums for the Department of Defense’s health plan, called Tricare. The average monthly premium for their private-sector counterparts exceeds $500. Individual contributions will need to increase over time to keep up with spiraling health-care costs,” writes Rumsfeld, who served twice as Defense Secretary and ranks only behind Robert McNamera in terms of time served.
Other ideas Rumsfeld had for savings in the budget included the end of congressional earmarks, both from the past and in the future. This, he said, would save more than $80 billion over the next decade.
Strategically, the former Secretary of Defense argued for the repositioning of forces away from Cold War positions toward smaller, forward bases. “Until 2005, for example, America was paying $225 million annually to station aircraft in Iceland to monitor threatening Soviet bombers and submarines that hadn’t been around for over a decade,” he says.
But making the wrong cuts could lead to profound regret, said Rumsfeld. “The false comfort provided by the end of the Cold War led the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to draw down the nation’s intelligence and military budgets… Its consequences did not become starkly apparent until 9/11, and the resulting scramble to rebuild our capabilities in the months thereafter,” writes Rumsfeld.
The Gazette now offers Facebook Comments on its stories. You must be logged into your Facebook account to add comments. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal page, uncheck the box below the comment. Comments deemed offensive by the moderators will be removed, and commenters who persist may be banned from commenting on the site.