THE BLOG
08/02/2011 03:58 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2011

Is There a Pony Somewhere in All This Defense Budget Manure?

Depending on which side of the military spending issue one is on, depending on whether one is a hawk or a dove, chills or thrills are running up and down the respective spines in light of the debt ceiling deal that the president has just signed into law.

While, to sighs of relief from those for a strong military, it looks like the cuts in next year's defense budget will probably be small, for the years beyond there is at best uncertainty, at worst some real angst in the minds of the same defense hawks.

Some of the headlines sound ominous.

The Washington Post: "Pentagon Faces Possibility of Hundreds of Billions in Spending Cuts Over 10 Years" and "Pentagon in cross hairs of debt 'trigger'"

Under the banner "Debt deal could cut defense $900B over next decade" USA TODAY leads with:

Cuts to defense spending in the debt reduction bill could total nearly $1 trillion over 10 years -- more than double what President Obama had proposed earlier this year -- and sap American military might worldwide, say analysts and members of Congress.

The New York Times, "Pentagon Faces Possibility of Hundreds of Billions in Spending Cuts Over 10 Years."

Estimates of the cuts, and the consequences thereof, are all over the map. The reliability and clarity of such estimates and predictions are not helped by the facts that there are no real details yet and that the Pentagon budget is a subset -- a very large subset -- of the so-called "security" budget, one that also includes homeland security, part of Veterans Affairs, State Department, etc.

The New York Times points out:

This year, the Pentagon got $529 billion of the $689 billion in security spending. What is not yet known about the reduced total of $684 billion in security spending for 2012 is whether Congress will hit the Pentagon with the entire $5 billion cut -- budget analysts said that was unlikely -- or whether the reductions will be spread throughout government agencies, or perhaps even leave the Pentagon untouched.

Additionally, there is a whole lot of uncertainty, angst, built into the "deal" by the agreement to let a bipartisan Congressional committee (made up or six Republicans and six Democrats) come up with $1.5 trillion of additional cuts by November, or "trigger" automatic across-the-board spending cuts of $1.2 trillion, one half of which would come from the military budget starting in 2013.

Such prospects -- of $600 billion in additional defense cuts over the next decade -- "are enough to make Pentagon generals wince and to compel the U.S. military to make big changes to its global strategy," according to the Post.

However in all this gloom and doom for those supporting continued big spending on our military, there appears to be a comforting voice.

McClatchy Newspapers asks, "Who gains from debt deal?" The answer, "The Pentagon, for one."

It claims:

The last-minute deal that Congress is considering to raise the federal debt limit probably will mean trillions of dollars in government spending reductions for most agencies. But one department stands to gain: the Pentagon.

Rather than cutting $400 billion in defense spending through 2023, as President Barack Obama had proposed in April, the current debt proposal trims $350 billion through 2024, effectively giving the Pentagon $50 billion more than it had been expecting over the next decade.

Read more here and decide for yourself whether defense hawks can legitimately claim that "with all this horse manure, there has to be a pony around here somewhere" and they are going to find it.