Why Is Pentagon Budget-Gutting Ron Paul So Well-Liked by U.S. Military?

11/8/2011
By Sandra I. Erwin
Perennial underdog presidential contender Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is calling for more than $800 billion in Pentagon budget cuts over just four years. If he were elected president, his administration's budget would slash military spending even more deeply and drastically than any deficit-reduction plan that has been proposed so far by any other candidate, congressional committee or outside group. He would hit the Pentagon with a bigger budget ax than the supercommittee's much-feared "sequestration" cuts that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has dubbed a "doomsday" device.
Panetta, along with every senior leader from each of the military services, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, as well as a growing chorus of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, have called the sequestration cuts — up to $600 billion over 10 years, in addition to $400 billion in already agreed-upon reductions — “catastrophic." Dempsey said those spending cutbacks would cause “potentially irrevocable wounds to our national security.”
So what explains that, contrary to what common sense would suggest, Paul's biggest bloc of campaign donors are active-duty military and civilian employees of the Department of Defense?
According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Paul's top three donor categories are members of the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. Within the top 10 categories are also employees of major defense contractors The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.
Although Paul is not viewed as having a realistic shot at the White House and has raised considerably less money than President Obama and GOP front runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry (as of the end of the third quarter of 2011), the notion that his largest group of supporters are military, Defense Department employees and contractors appears counterintuitive. These are the people whose jobs potentially would be on the line under a Paul administration.
This in many ways highlights thecontradictions in today's debate over the rising U.S. debt and its implications for national security, including the question of how much of the military’s budget should be on the table without undermining the nation’s defense. The 12 members of the debt-reduction supercommittee are wrestling with that issue as they face a Nov. 23 deadline to figure out how to slice $1.5 trillion from federal deficits over the next decade.
With Paul, there are no ambiguities or implied assumptions about the impact that reduced military spending would have on the nation’s superpower status. He wants to eliminate "war supplemental" funds, withdraw U.S. troops from foreign deployments and end the "drone wars" against terrorist networks.
Paul’s isolationist platform stands in stark contrast to the Pentagon’s leadership vision of having U.S. forces permanently engaged in “forward presence” and deployed in strategic areas of the globe to deter or respond to crises. Paul has described U.S. policy regarding military deployments as “deeply flawed” and has said, “It’s time for us to come home and mind our own business.”
A retired military officer who follows U.S. politics said it is possible that all those Paul donors who work for the Defense Department are espousing his ideals, rather than voting for their self-interest. That is not an unusual phenomenon in American politics.
“I think that military and DoD civilian people are attracted to the Ron Paul rhetoric because they wrongly see themselves as independent self-determiners, when to the contrary they are totally dependent on the government for their prosperity,” he said. “It's a matter of self images that are 180 degrees out of whack.”
Another retired military source suggested that Paul's supporters are most likely rank-and-file military, not the movers and shakers who have a vested interest in protecting the status quo. Their endorsement of Paul is another reminder that the perspective from the trenches can be oh so different from how the center of power views the world.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget

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