By Robert Schlesinger |
The question is misleading. Defense budget cuts are being implemented now. They've been going on for the past two years, and many more are planed in the near future. It's not a question of "if they're necessary" but how damaging they will be for a force that is only being used more, not less, everyday worldwide, and a military facing a readiness crisis after 10 years of constant combat.
Using Washington math, some say there have been no defense cuts. But President Obama's started slashing military plans and priorities since taking office. His first defense budget canceled or delayed some 50 major equipment programs, including ships, missile defense, cargo and fighter aircraft, and ground vehicles valued at more than $300 billion. Then, behind the scenes, the White House took another $78 billion out of the military's budget last winter.
President Obama was so pleased with these defense cuts, he vowed to repeat them by cutting another $400 billion from the military—even before there was a debt ceiling deal that further cuts defense spending.
That's not how the nation should build (or not build) a defense budget. The defense budget and military force size and structure are informed by the president's foreign policy, our nation's enduring vital national interests, the threats we face, and how to defend against them or deter others within certain margins of risk.
These cuts are coming at a time when U.S. foreign policy objectives and the hard power to support them are increasingly out of whack. President Obama is cashing in the defense budget even though, over the past three years, he surged forces in Afghanistan (twice), launched a new air war over Libya, dramatically increased counterterrorism operations with Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and sent troops to Africa to fight the Lord's Resistance Army. Nor is there any reason to think he would hesitate to send troops to provide relief in the next natural disaster, just as he has used them to aid victims in Japan and Haiti. Obama has even proposed keeping 1,200 National Guard troops at the United States' southwestern border to augment customs officers.
Washington can continue to underfund the military, but it will not mean a less ambitious foreign policy. It will mean hollow security and treaty commitments, greatly increased risk of conflict, and substantially greater casualties for the men and women who serve in the military.
About Mackenzie Eaglen Fellow at the Heritage Foundation
Ron Paul U.S. Representative and Republican Candidate for President
Patrick Takahashi Director Emeritus at the University of Hawaii
Travis Sharp Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security