Deficit Is Greatest Security Threat
Cuts may be necessary, but don't shift the entire burden to the military
November 21, 2011
Further cuts to defense spending probably are necessary, both politically and arithmetically, to make substantial progress toward eliminating deficit spending and reducing our federal debt. Our indebtedness is the greatest national security vulnerability America has, and we can afford to accept greater risk in the short-term (the coming several years) in order to put our country on solid financial footing.
Our military is the world's finest by a substantial margin. While a relatively small force, it is battle-hardened, amazingly innovative, and has top-of-the-line equipment. At least in the short term, we have information dominance, air supremacy, mastery of the spectrum of operations from counterinsurgency to the highest intensity operations. Defense spending has doubled in the past decade. Our margin for error is very wide.
Defense has already been cut significantly. Two years ago, Secretary Gates worked with Service Chiefs to identify $100 billion in money that could be redirected from current plans to new priorities. Instead of allowing those funds to remain in DoD, the White House confiscated it, along with an additional $78 billion. President Obama's FY2012 budget envisioned cutting $400 billion across 12 years; the Budget Control Act expanded that to $450 billion within 10 years. All this DOD has said it could accommodate.
Where the defense leadership gets concerned is about the automatic cuts of another $600 billion necessitated if the congressional "super committee" cannot reach a deal and sequestration goes into effect. Secretary Panetta and the Service Chiefs speak in apocalyptic terms about the damage it would cause. Moreover, they are affronted to be the only department of government that the president targeted for spending reductions. If sequestration goes into effect, Congress will be avoiding cuts to entitlement programs by shifting the burden to the military. We have not been a country at war, we have been a military at war, and they are once again the only ones to be sacrificing.
The American military is the envy of the world, and well it should be. Cuts to defense will make the work of our military harder, and political leaders need to accept responsibility for incurring those risks. But the risk of continuing our lurch toward insolvency is even more damaging to our country. We just need to ensure that as we make cuts, we are not asking only the military to fix this enormous problem.