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  • Why Defense Matters to Conservatives

    Professor Colin Dueck argues in Hard Line that dedication to a strong national defense is the most enduring theme of conservative and Republican foreign policy since World War II. In spite of “apparent oscillations between internationalism and isolationism,” conservatives have demonstrated “a hawkish and intense American nationalism … committed to building strong national defenses, determined to maintain a free hand for the United States internationally.”

    There’s a reason for this. Though skeptical of government’s domestic ambitions, conservatives instinctively understand it has a special role — spelled out in the preamble to the Constitution — “to provide for the common defense.” According to a recent poll in 10 battleground congressional districts, 60 percent of likely Republican voters won’t accept any cuts to defense and homeland security.

    Even fiscal hawks like Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, understand government’s unique role in defense. Mr. Ryan agrees there’s a lot of waste to cut from the federal budget. But, he argues, “Let’s not do so at the expense of our fundamental, primary function of our federal government, which is to secure our national defense … you can’t take money from defense to plow it into all this domestic spending.” Likely presidential contenders Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney also fully embrace the Reagan vision of “peace through strength.”

    So don’t assume all conservatives will surrender to “budget hawk”-inspired isolationism.

    However, conservatives strongly believe in accountability. They understand we can find savings in logistics and personnel management and compensation reform. Reforming performance logistics alone could save as much as $32 billion a year.

    Unfortunately, there are not enough sound savings within defense to fill the defense budget hole. According to the military services, their modernization budgets fall about $50 billion per year short of what’s needed to develop essential next-generation equipment. The Congressional Research Service estimates the requirement gap is $30 billion to $40 billion for the Army alone. Naval shipbuilding plans and Air Force aviation plans are similarly underfunded.

    The case for replenishing the defense budget is sound, but conservatives must do a better job of explaining it to the American people.

    First, they must explain why defense is different — why its budget shouldn’t be on the chopping block along with domestic programs.

    One reason is because the Constitution says so. George Washington pushed for a constitutional convention because he saw firsthand how the Articles of Confederation failed the nation in war. We needed better coordination and funding mechanisms. Providing for a better defense became a major driving force for approving the new Constitution and a founding principle of the nation.

    Second, conservatives must explain what’s happening to the defense budget. What drives our fiscal crisis is not defense expenditures but entitlement spending. It, along with interest on the debt, accounts for more than 65 percent of the federal budget; defense spending claims less than one-fifth. As a percentage of gross domestic product, or GDP, defense spending is near historic lows.

    If you think we can afford to spend less today because we are in an age of peace, think again. The military is still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our nation faces growing threats from terrorists and rogue nations.

    Armies and navies not only cost a lot to maintain; they need to be funded and modernized over long periods. We must look ahead many years to determine what forces we need to reduce the risks. We work backward from there to determine how much such forces will cost, with infrastructure and modernization costs built in requiring budget support over many years.

    Enemies of long-term military strength include: (1) Weapons and program cancellations, often after billions have been invested in development, and (2) budgetary ups and downs, introducing tremendous instability into long-range military planning, which causes sharp and wasteful increases in weapons costs.

    The fact is that having fought two wars for a period of years, our military equipment and forces are wearing out. The average age of our tactical aircraft is 20, bombers nearly 30, and tankers about 45 years old. And yet investment in new weapons has stalled or been cut back.

    America needs the best military force in the world. We are a global power with global interests, and the threats are real. Imagine the casualties if we lacked a missile-defense system to knock down a future barrage of Iranian nuclear missiles fired at New York, or the economic consequences if our naval and ground expeditionary forces were insufficient to stop a run on Middle East oil supplies. Consider the global instability if we have “no go” areas in Asia and Europe, for example, because our military becomes too weak to predict victory.

    These are the hard realities of national security. Conservatives know we must fix our debt problem. They also know it can’t be done safely if we fail to ensure the nation’s security.

    Cross-posted at The Washington Times.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to Why Defense Matters to Conservatives

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Ms. Holmes,

      In this article you recognize there is waste and redundancy in the DoD, yet you are willing to brush it aside saying “Unfortunately, there are not enough sound savings within defense to fill the defense budget hole.” I think there is. I don’t care what blog you are on you hear the following from either DoD federal employees or their contractors:

      -If the public only knew what goes on here they would burn down DC.

      -Somewhere between 10% to 25% of the federal employees actually accomplishes anything.

      -Feds cannot hold contractors accountable due to convoluted processes.

      -Soldiers are idle while we are spending good money having ground work done by expensive contractors.

      -Tasks are often done in replication by different parts of the DoD without cross knowledge.

      -Soldiers are getting useless hardware they never asked for and that does not satisfy the mission.

      -Some very expensive hardware breaks down often.

      -We are too heavy in high tech gadgetry.

      -There are excessive spend down of budgets at the end of the budget year in the tune of millions of dollars.

      -Massive loss of money through contractors while in engagement

      Anyone who lives in DC can see that there are busses loaded with DHS and DoD federal employees. Considering during the day, it can take anywhere up to an hour to get between buildings we are talking about each employee riding on these busses loosing up to 2 hours of productivity or $120 to the taxpayer (using the average $123,000 compensation a federal employee receives a year). For every 1000 DHS and DoD employee riding these busses for whatever reason, we the taxpayer looses $120,000 in productivity. We have entered the teleconference age, therefore; there is no reason why a federal employee needs to leave their desk. From what I witness living here, it is very conceivable that there is a thousand or more feds riding on busses each hour of the day. These busses hold around 20 people and are often on a 10 to 20 minute cycle. If I am right, this can amount to a million dollars of lost productivity every working day.

      Also considering the sensitive information leaks in the DoD as of late. Leaks that have been numbering in a staggering half a million documents. It can be seen that the inefficiencies in the DoD is proving to be a security threat in itself. Highly sensitive documents are literally floating around DC with too many people having too much access. Tightening these logistics protocols will not only make the nation more secure, but also will provide a great amount of cost savings as well.

      Ms. Holmes, there is waste that needs to be reined in. Just as we “conservatives” want cuts made to the domestic spending departments and as much as we want to point out the waste and inefficiencies in those places, we should be doing so in the DoD. Otherwise we are hypocrites.

      As a conservative, I am angry at the waste in teh DoD. I think of what those dollars could have done to further protect our soldiers. I am in favor (very much so) to have all DoD redundancy eliminated. I want the DoD to be as efficient as it can be. I want processes and procedures to be streamlined to make it easy to get rid of dead weight, both in the federal employee ranks but also in the contractor ranks. I want all processes where the DoD “loses” money to be investigated and corrected. I want soldier (i.e. field soldier) oversight on weapons acquisition contracts. We need to be sure we really need the weapon and that it is not just a kickback for some corporation.

      I want a law that prohibits any defense contractor from giving money to campaigns. This is very dangerous as our congress members are voting for projects that are not necessary. I want greater financial disclosures made on people with decision-making positions. We need to know if a high ranking official is getting a kickback for approving a contractor. I want the DoD and DHS to eliminate all idle federal employees and replace their positions with private sector retainer contracts. If something pops up the contractor can fill in the job demand until the job is completed. After which they go away – no longer costing the taxpayer while we wait for the next event.

      I could go on, but what needs to be understood, we conservatives do want a strong MILITARY, but that does not mean we endorse the fraud, the waste and the inefficiencies that currently reside within the GOVERNMENT portion of the DoD. It needs to be clear that the same fraud, waste and inefficiencies that exists in HHS, DOE and so on ALSO exists in the DoD and especially in the DHS. It ALL needs to be cleaned up. If we can recapture $100 billion by making the DoD lean and mean, that $100 billion can then be seen as a budget increase for necessary projects and acquisitions.

      Admiral Mike Mullens in a speech to some students stated that out national debt Is the largest threat to national security. We need to take notice on his warning. We need to start thinking of each dollar being spent is the same thing as shooting ourselves with a be-be. We may not die at first, but after a while it will kill us. Ms. Holmes, you are right we do not want to cut the Military – but only where it matters for national security. Where you are wrong, is that we can still make some deep and meaningful cuts in the Pentagon and in the DHS and we should.

    2. Andrew, VA says:

      Hear, hear. The first step toward fixing a problem is admitting that you have one. If we do not admit openly and honestly that the Pentagon spends way too much money on, well, EVERYTHING through shoddy contracts, inefficiency etc., we are doomed.

      Adm. Mullens is right: National debt is the ENEMY. We must defeat it at all costs — just like the Imperial Japanese or the Nazis — or we will perish. It's that simple.

    3. AWM -NW Indiana says:

      Kudos to Mr. Hargrove!

      I would hope that all Conservatives clearly understand that a strong military is THE primary responsibility of the Federal Government: but unless we demand that both the private and public portions of the process are transparent, we are no better than those (both Democrat and Republican!) whose "pocketbook before principle" philosophy has resulted in the corrupt/bankrupt system presently in place.

      I would hope that enough of us are ashamed and embarrassed by the burden we have allowed to be placed upon our children and grandchildren, that we will weigh our future decisions upon a scale which uses character and principle as the metric, rather than the "what's in it for me" philosophy which my generation has wrought upon this country…..

    4. Dennis Georgia says:

      Defense is of the utmost importance to this country. I will agree that DoD is wasteful, and will agree that most "guvment" employees do very little. If anyone wants to see our employees at their best, go to the nearest VA hospital, see how many use work for play, socializing and a good time. Noone will say anything because they all belong to the UNION. Cuts can be done, somethings are just a waste, yet the defence of this country is real and very necessary, just as taking care of the wounded and torn soilders in the military. I am sorry to say that we have a person in the white house that does not care about any of this, he will just talk and send us futher down the path od destruction.

    5. Joel Dusek, Aurora C says:

      I had a statist, big-government boss ask me why if I hate government, I have and do work for government. I responded that I don't hate government, I want good government. Defense, public safety, and order and justice are appropriate functions of government at any level, and that's the good government we American Traditionalists want.

    6. Richard Mason, Chula says:

      The pursuit of a balanced budget requires a Constitutional Amendment that will insure it. So too, does any realistic effort to insure a strong and viable defense for our nation. That means that a reasoned percentage of our gross national production should be set aside to enable the DOD to make both long range development plans and short term tactical decisions to meet our nation’s military needs. It is understood during those times of “extreme threat” to our nation that congress would still be able to “over-ride” these limits but at a cost of either other budget interests or with the approval of the voice of the American people through contact with their representatives. Without an “enforced” budget commitment to defense our nation’s survival will forever be at risk and all of us unready for the attacks and natural disasters that await us.

    7. Marshall,Michigan says:

      Our country needs a strong Defense system,which can be gotten from all the

      Departments that are not doing anything useful for the Country! The first to lose

      funding should be Attorney General,EPA,Foriegn Aid,Money taken from Social

      Security for Immigrantes.Stop all Wic Card Accounts.Stop funding the U.N.

      After that we can lookat the Czars Pay and defund whats left of the Stimulus

      bill and any other slush fund!

      Hearings on Rangel,Dodd,Barney Frank,Franklin Raines and many others!

      God Bless America

    8. Marshall,Michigan says:

      We are Americans,exceptional in many ways and the Leader of the Free World!

    9. Naksuthin, Chicago, says:

      If you assume that Big Government creates waste , then you have to assume that the Biggest Government Program…defense….. creates the most waste.

      We spend 3 times more on defense than China…a country 3 times our population.

      Yet with all that money ….650 billion dollars a year …we have been unable to defeat a rag tag band of about 10,000 insurgents who have no air force, no navy, no harpoon missiles, no drones, no bullet proof vests, no night vision goggles, no helicopters, no tanks…not even uniforms.

      In business, if you spend a lot of money and don't accomplish the mission you go bankrupt.

      If the US military were a business…it would be bankrupt by now.

    10. TAH, WA says:

      The Preamble also claims "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility…. promote the general Welfare…". Admirable and noble.

      We can surely agree that we shouldn't be in favor of infinitely expanding government in the name tranquility and 'general welfare'. Liberals make that argument, especially when it comes to eminent domain, redistribution of wealth, and peace & tranquility through constant negotiation and appeasement.

      As a conservative, it is necessary for us to push back against government when, in the name of welfare, tranquility and justice, that govt. begins to trample on our liberties of life and property.

      Our defense is certainly the primary responsibility of the Commander in Chief and our government. However, we don't face an imminent outside threat; we don't face the trampling of our rights and liberties from Canada and China and Russia; we don't live in fear of invasion. In some ways, we are the most secure nation and civilization that has ever existed.

      Our navy is much smaller than it was during WW2, yet it's battle fleet is more formidable that the next 13 navies combined – and remarkably, 10 or so of those navies are our direct allies. Our defense spending is a massive global entitlement program that incentivize our allies not to spend their fair share.

      So, I must agree with the two contributors already. There are vast pools of waste, bureaucracy, and unnecessary projects in the DoD that need to be placed on the table as we slash the budget.

      The burdening debt and increased budget – 23% for defense – will indirectly trample on our liberties. More govt bureaucracy, more interest groups seeking D.C money, and eventually, a more burdensome tax system to pay for all of this.

      I certainly don't agree with the Left philosophically on Defense and its value to ensuring our liberties; however, as a fiscal conservative, we must also be cognizant that we don't ensure this liberty on the backs of debt and irresponsible defense spending.

    11. Edward Wolfe, Bowlin says:

      Mr. Holmes,

      Do you know the answer to this: How many countries do we have troops in? 150

      To people like yourself I ask: Why do we need troops in that many countries? It is time that others pull their own weight, namely, Europe, which means we need to cut defense spending.

      I am a very right wing conservative, but I am sick and tired of hearing about how wasteful government is (which I believe), but when it comes to the military, waste either doesn't exist, or it is supposed to be ignored. I am at the end with Republicans wanting to cut everything but military spending. I am a lifelong Republican voter, but this is the last time I vote for Republicans if the they don't get their act together and cut ALL forms of government waste–including military waste.

      Approximately half of the budget is discretionary spending, and approximately half of the discretionary spending is military spending. So we're sitting with about one-fourth of the budget being military spending, and you don't want to touch it–in fact, you want to expand it.

      If that is your position, then we're facing some major tax increases.

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