Dick Cheney’s re-emergence tour continued today with a visit to Capitol Hill to get Republicans “ginned up” to prevent automatic cuts to military spending that are supposed to take effect early next year. Politico reports that in a meeting with Senate Republicans this afternoon, Cheney provided some words of wisdom based on his experience as Secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration:
Cheney didn’t push a specific policy remedy for avoiding the automatic cuts, several senators said. Rather, he focused on his time as the defense secretary in the 1990s — talking particularly about the need to plan years in advance for major investments in the military.
“He just talked about some of the critical investments that have been made over time and the lag time that it takes for those things to happen,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) “There was no policy issue; it was just the fact [that] sequestration is a blunt object, and it is.”
Whether Cheney talked about his time leading the Pentagon, the big elephant in the room here is that Cheney himself oversaw drastic cuts to the DOD budget during his tenure as Defense Secretary and even pushed for cuts to expensive weapons programs. George W. Bush administration Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, who served as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman during the elder Bush’s administration, pointed this out last year in making the case that the “defense budget cannot be sacrosanct” when figuring ways to cut spending:
“When the Cold War ended 20 years ago, when I was chairman and [Dick] Cheney was Secretary of Defense, we cut the defense budget by 25 percent. And we reduced the force by 500,000 active duty soldiers, so it can be done. Now, how fast you can do it and what you have to cut out remains to be seen, but I don’t think the defense budget can be made sacrosanct and it can’t be touched.”
Indeed, as a recent CAP report pointed out, the budget authority for the Defense Department fell by nearly $100 billion during the George H.W. Bush administration, or Cheney’s time as Defense Secretary.
Also most likely left unmentioned in Cheney’s meetings with Republicans on the Hill is that overwhelming majorities of Americans in both Democratic and Republican congressional districts favor military spending cuts and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said this week that even the most drastic cuts would merely take the Pentagon’s budget back to 2006 levels.