How does the Obama Administration plan to save money? If you guessed "cutting defense," give yourself a gold star and move to the head of the budgetary class.
The Wall Street Journal reports that defense programs will absorb half of the $17 billion in planned cuts, which will be announced on Thursday. Some of the reductions have already been announced, including plans to halt production of the Air Force's F-22 stealth fighter.
The rest of the cuts will come from domestic programs, although it's unclear if the reductions will actually occur. As one administration official told the Journal, virtually all programs have a constituency, meaning that someone will fight the planned reductions.
Not that it really matters. The reductions are largely symbolic, as the WSJ explains:
Compared with the total $3.6 trillion spending plan for 2010, the proposed trims amount to one-half of 1%. Half the cuts would come from defense, especially Pentagon weapons programs already spelled out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, such as trimming back the fleet of advanced F-22 fighter planes. The other half would come from programs that have strong support among progressive activists who cheered Mr. Obama's election. Programs targeted for elimination or consolidation include education and housing programs that Democratic aides said will have fierce advocates among traditionally Democratic constituencies.
Given that reality, it's not inconceivable that some of the domestic initiatives will be saved, forcing bean counters to look for more cuts in the defense budget. So the "50% share" for the Pentagon may well rise, as the administration looks for more ways to save money.
OMB Director Peter Orszag says the planned defense reductions include "all of those" outlined by Defense Secretary Bob Gates last month. Programs targeted for down-sizing (or elimination) include the C-17 transport, the airborne laser and the aforementioned F-22. Some analysts believe that the Air Force has been unfairly singled out for budget cuts, with ominous implications for the service and its airpower mission.
But those sorts of arguments don't get much traction. Just today, pollster Frank Luntz advised Republicans to avoid "principled arguments" in battling the White House on health care reform. Embrace the reform mantra, Luntz argued, and advocate efficiency and savings in the GOP plan.
If you can't get American voters to see the folly of socialized health care, then well-reasoned arguments supporting key defense programs stand absolutely no chance. Welcome to the ill-informed, indifferent U.S. electorate of the early 21st Century. The greatest of the "Great Unwashed." Just the kind of voters that Democrats love.