Best Defense Budget Cut Is a Good Offense Cut, Expert Says

By Lucas Zellers | November 23, 2011 | 2:01 PM EST

FILE - In this Wednesday, April 20, 2011 file photo, U.S. Army soldiers are seen with Uganda People's Defence Force soldiers at the closing ceremony for operation ATLAS DROP 11, an annual joint aerial delivery exercise, in Soroti, about 400 kilometers east of Uganda's capital city Kampala. While putting few U.S. troops at risk, the United States is providing intelligence and training to fight militants across the continent, from Mauritania in the west along the Atlantic Ocean, to Somalia in the east along the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Stephen Wandera, File)

Washington ( – The best way to cut defense spending is to withdraw from “gratuitous” operations like Libya, said security analyst Col. Bob Maginnis.

“He [the president] has got to figure out which ones he’s going to take off the table, and as yet he’s not taken a single one,” Maginnis said in an interview with Maginnis, who is retired from U.S. Army, is currently vice president for policy at the Family Research Council.

“We seem to have gratuitous wars like the Libyan operation. Yeah, we’re getting out of Iraq, but he’s extended for a couple of years what we’re doing in Afghanistan, and this past week he was in China, over in Asia, making great promises about more military operations and more obligations to some of our allies,” said Maginnis. “You can’t have it both ways, and so there will have to come accommodation.”

“You just can’t stretch this rubber band that far without breaking some of it, and then that’s going to have far more complex issues that we as a country will have to face than just the economic ones we’re facing today,” Maginnis said.

In the wake of the supercommittee’s failure to produce a plan to cut $1.2 trillion in government spending, the Defense Department faces automatic cuts of about $600 billion over nine years, starting in 2013, under the provisions of the Budget Control Act. 

Though the cuts are spread out over nine years, Maginnis said that’s not going to make it easier.

“Keep in mind you make investments in people, especially in the Defense Department, that take many years to cultivate, and also you want to retain people,” said Maginnis.  “How much are you willing to alienate an all-volunteer force that has been fighting a war for the last 10 years? I don’t think it would be wise to do that.”

The act, passed in August, already cut $456 billion from the Defense Department’s budget, making an additional $600 billion a dramatic cut.

“That’s already a pretty painful cut that is going to see some rather dramatic changes, but when you put this on top of it over 10 years, it means a significant, you know, something like 25 percent of the aircraft, 18 percent of the ships, and maybe 40 percent of our Army battalions. That’s a lot of stuff,” said Maginnis.

Maginnis warned that cutting defense spending would leave the United States vulnerable in a dangerous world. 

“I think if people were to travel outside this country and recognize how many vicious enemies we face all around us, they would quickly come to realize that this is not something we should play with,” said Maginnis.

“We cannot afford to scuttle our defense capability given the very, very serious nature of the threats around us. They are not diminishing; they are increasing, and you’re going to have to make some hard calls,” he added.

According to Maginnis, the supercommittee’s task was predestined to fail.

“The whole idea of sequestration, and especially this committee of 12, I think usurps the constitutional obligation of the 535 people that serve on the Hill. They’re the ones that should have wrestled with this problem and not tried to relegate it to 12 people who, you know, quite frankly never would have come to a resolution, just because they were selected because of their hard-and-fast political leanings,” said Maginnis.