A core principle of the political left in this country is that our current levels of defense spending have harmed, and will continue to harm, our economic prosperity. So last month while he was defending the $700 billion Wall Street bailout program, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said: “The biggest ongoing threat to fiscal sanity in this country, I believe, is an open-ended, ever expanding military budget that goes far beyond what is necessary.” Frank’s assertions about the scope of defense spending in the United States are just flat out wrong.
At the height of World War II we spent 46% of our GDP on the military. By 1945 that number had dropped to 34.5%. Throughout the Cold War, defense spending averaged 8% of GDP and since 1962 the average spending level has fallen even further to 5.5% of our GDP. Today we spend less than 4% on defense. Our economy has boomed multiple times in the past despite our government devoting much higher levels of our GDP to national security. Currently, there is runaway spending in Washington, but it is coming from President Barack Obama and the left. Congress spent more in just one bill–this year’s “stimulus” bill–than it spent on Afghanistan and Iraq combined since 2001.
Eager to mollify his leftist base while still making it appear he is serious about responsibility, President Barack Obama has recently begun laying the groundwork for deep cuts in defense spending. Last week, he promised to only “invest in technologies that are proven and cost-effective…If a system isn’t ready to be developed, we shouldn’t pour resources into it.” This may sound sensible but it ignores the fact that developing and deploying cutting-edge technologies is far more complex. Many of today’s military programs are a “system of systems” (like the Army’s Future Combat Systems modernization effort and ballistic missile defense) that have integrated components that must be deployed individually before they can be tested together as part of the larger network. Placing undo requirements on these programs will only further generate a risk-averse culture and will inevitably slow the acquisition process and raise costs.
More worrisome, the previous week President Obama said he wanted to “reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use.” It would appear this is a further attempt to lay the groundwork for cutting necessary core-capabilities from America’s military, not just by associating them with the Cold War and a bygone era, but by identifying them as wasteful and a potential area for cost-savings.
Defense contracting is far from perfect. And the Heritage Foundation has been a leader in identifying ways to make it more efficient. But neither is defense spending a burden on our economy, or exploding in size. There has been an explosion in spending that has cratered our national deficit. But Congressman Frank and President Obama must understand that the explosion in entitlement and non-defense discretionary spending are the real culprits.
- North Korea warned today that any move to intercept a missile test-firing would result in a counterstrike against the countries trying to stop it.
- Experts on both sides of the issue say tens of thousands of jobs created by the economic stimulus law could end up filled by illegal immigrants.
- According to Drug Enforcement Administration records, Atlanta has emerged as the preferred gateway to America for Mexican drug cartels.
- The Obama Administration will press world governments to boost their deficit spending, despite the fact that the explosion of U.S. deficit spending makes other country’s borrowing more expensive.
- Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is urging the nation’s schools to spend their stimulus dollars as fast as they possibly can.