• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Top 10 Reasons to NOT Put Defense Spending 'On the Table'

    Getting America’s fiscal house in order ought to be a priority, but it should not come at the expense of protecting the American people. Here are 10 reasons why gutting defense is wrong.

    #10. We are a nation at war. Even the White House acknowledges that the U.S. will be conducting operations in Afghanistan through 2014 and that America will remain engaged in Iraq as well. Cutting defense would mean that wars would be funded by robbing resources from readiness, training, and buying new equipment. Our troops would suffer.

    #9. The Pentagon’s bill is getting bigger, not smaller. Congress has under-funded buying new equipment by about on average $50 billion a year for over a decade. Every year our men and women in uniform deploy with older and less equipment—planes older than their pilots, the smallest navy since 1916. Cutting the budget means our military would go hollow. Simply calling to cut “Cold War” systems we don’t need won’t cut it. Our troops need something—not nothing. They can’t fight without ships, planes, and vehicles.

    #8. The world is getting less safe, not more. We face no fewer threats than we did last year, so how can cuts to defense be justified? Talk of defense cuts are music to the ears of North Korea and Iran. China would be thrilled. If overseas bases had been closed and capabilities eliminated, as proposed by various debt reduction proposals, the U.S. would not have been able to respond to Pyongyang’s latest tirade.

    #7. Americans want to be defended. Americans overwhelmingly support a strong national defense. They would never want to see America humiliated again as it was at Desert One or Task Force Smith. They would never want to see the homeland at risk from foreign threats. The Pentagon cannot provide trained and ready forces, conduct current operations, and prepare for future with defense cuts. Cuts would turn the military from the world’s finest fighting force into a paper tiger.

    #6. Defense cuts would mean a whole lot less defense. What primarily make defense spending inefficient are overly prescriptive laws, particular demands, and whipsaw policies established by Congress. When the budget is cut, the inefficiencies Congress created in the past don’t automatically make go away. In fact, since they are still there, trying to do more with less becomes even more difficult and far less efficient. The American taxpayers would be paying for all the inefficiencies without getting much capability in return.

    #5. Savings cannot be saved. Defense spending can be made much more efficient. The Heritage Foundation, for example, has identified $35 billion that can be recouped from improving logistic practices. But savings must be put back in top line of defense budget. Working to make the Pentagon more efficient without cutting the Pentagon budget is the single and most cost-effective way to dramatically enhance our military without adding to the deficit or raising taxes.

    #4. The budget can be balanced without gutting defense. The Heritage Foundation has identified over $340 billion in savings without gutting what our men and women in uniform need to defend us. What is bankrupting government is “big government,” not defense. National defense now ranks fourth in overall government spending priorities, falling behind the combined cost of Social Security and Medicare, public education, and means-tested welfare aid. A recent report by Robert Rector at The Heritage Foundation shows how welfare spending has leapfrogged over the Pentagon’s budget. In 10 years, he finds, our state and federal governments will shell out $10.3 trillion on welfare programs (and that’s not counting the trillion-dollar-plus increase in federal health spending from Obamacare).

    #3. Gutting defense makes progressives’ life easy. Progressives are interested only in big government, and they’ll fight to keep it any price—including compromising national security. The defense budget is a tempting and easy target for liberals. Putting big defense cuts on the table takes pressure off the left to address big government spending. Cutting defense just encourages further fiscal irresponsibility in Washington.

    #2. Defense spending is already at near historic post–World War II lows. Base defense spending as a percentage of GDP is about half of what it was during the Cold War. It is the lowest spending in wartime in the nation’s history. The defense budget since the 1950s has plummeted from one-half to less than one-fifth of the federal budget. The world is less safe today, and the military is struggling to keep up because of the “peace dividend” taken under Clinton. Taking another withdrawal on our security account will put the nation at grave risk.

    #1. Providing for the common defense is an obligation established by the Constitution. No other duty of government is more explicitly laid out in the Constitution. It is the one thing Washington ought to be doing and last thing it ought to be cutting. Slashing defense sends the message that the priorities established by the Founding Fathers are no longer relevant—and it is that kind of thinking that placed our nation in the current economic peril it faces to begin with.

    Congress should seriously scrutinize the defense budget and make sure the American taxpayer gets the most for every security buck, but Congress should not put defense “on the table” as trading card to get Washington to deal with the problem of bloated government.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to Top 10 Reasons to NOT Put Defense Spending 'On the Table'

    1. Harry J. Friel, Ship says:

      Thank You Mr. Carafano!

    2. John, Rhode Island says:

      War? When did we declare war? I don't remember Congress passing such a resolution, do you?

      I count 26 uses of the word "defense" in your post, but not since WWII and the attack on the WTC have we actually used our military as a defensive response to an aggressive action taken against us. When the Twin Towers were attacked, our invasion to remove the Taliban from power was a defensive response, and it was the right response and it sent the right message – attack us (or directly aid those who do) and we will come in and take you out. But it should have ended there. Our military is neither designed nor trained to be nation builders, and we can't afford to stay there until the Afghani people are ready to stand up for themselves and govern themselves.

      We have nearly 3M active and reserve military personnel and nearly 1K military bases throughout the world. Do we need that many of either to defend this country from aggressors? Hardly.

      There are better ways to spread the virtues of Constitutional Republics and capitalism than through brute force, if that's our goal. We could always lead by example.

    3. Michael says:

      Anything to support these claims? The only number you provide is 10 trillion projection for broadly-labeled welfare.

      How do the following factor in to your position?

      - Supplementary defense budgets

      - Veteran Affairs: welfare or defense spending?

      - Homeland Security

      - Debt on past military adventures

      - Research spending on imagined weapons/defenses

      - Private contractors used to avoid enacting conscription

      - Military aid to occasional frienemies

      In absolute terms military spending has never been higher yet, as you rightly point out, the world is no safer. Perhaps there's a causal relationship there that you're not considering.

      Why does America have 'interests' abroad that must be protected by force? Do all other countries have the same 'right' to protect interests at home and abroad?

      Why has a war on a vague concept (terrorism) continually expanded, killing civilians in more and more countries and creating more anger towards America.

      Has America practiced state-sponsored terrorism? Does it continue to fund and otherwise sponsor/endorse terrorist or insurgent activity in other countries?

    4. Pingback: 10 Reasons Not to Cut Defense

    5. Bobbie says:

      isn't it funny, the one job they have, the president compromises! It's not funny at all. manipulating their elected duty constitutes TREASON!

    6. Sean J., Lakeland, F says:

      Well said.

      Defense of our Nation should never be compromised. Yes, North Korea, China, and Iran will smile at this. Even the nutty, Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, in Libya may enjoy the decisions of our ignorant leaders, many of which have been and continue to be a threat to our own national security.

    7. John, Rhode Island says:

      War? When did we declare war? I never saw Congress pass a resolution did you?

      I counted 26 uses of the word "defense" in your post, but not since WWII have we used the military to defend our country in response to an act of aggression committed against us. Well, except for our invasion into Afghanistan in response to the attack on the WTC. After 9/11, our response was dead right and the message was proper – attack us (or directly aid those who do) and we will come in and wipe you out. The mistake we made was sticking around after ousting the Taliban. We should have declared victory and left. Our military is not designed for nation building. We cannot afford to occupy that country and keep the peace while the Afghani people decide to take back their country. The same can be said for countless other places around the globe that we still have a presence in.

      You cannot sit there and tell me that we need 1k military bases and 3M military personnel (active and reserve) in order to *defend* this country from aggressors. Our framers never wanted us to be the world's police, and they certainly saw the dangers of a modern Roman empire, but like that and other instances, we've failed to heed their warnings and learn from the mistakes in history. We have an unsustainable military complex in this country, and it needs a serious haircut.

    8. Gary Zaetz, Cary, No says:

      Our nation's efforts to recover our war dead are seriously threatened by the freeze on non-war discretionary defense spending recommended by the Rivlin-Domenici debt reduction commission. It is shameful that today, 65 years after the end of World War II, there are 74,000 American servicemen and servicewomen still missing from that conflict. A major reason for this failure is the fact that the Defense Department's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) is severely underfunded. If JPAC is to meet the target of 200 MIA recoveries annually by 2015, as mandated by the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Department needs, at a minimum, to triple the amount of funds it requests annually from Congress for field investigation teams, and Congress must appropriate these funds. Our commitment of 'no man left behind' is too important for the Defense Department to continue to treat JPAC like a neglected stepchild. All members of Congress must support this badly needed increase in funding for the recovery of the remains of our heroic missing servicemen. They and their families deserve no less.?

    9. Pingback: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Time for Cautious Judgment | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

    10. GCTIII says:

      After lookiing at thje proposed cuts it seems strange to me that the commission did not touch welfare, medicaid, limiting the use of housing, foodstamps , lowering the actual ability of the government to spend even more of our hard earned dollars, and last but not least this abomination of a health care bill.

      We prefer instead to bash the people that allow us to express our views and debate these issues. I am talking about our brave men and women that serve our country. They did not start these conflicts, politicians did. They are just the last arm of the political decision, when diplomacy did not work.

      It saddens me to see them treated this way when only three years ago, congress was beating up on Bush for not providing the correct equipment.

    11. DJ, Chicago says:

      The defense spending of US is more than rest of the world combined! Do we feel safer after spending all that money? Why do we involve ourselves in foreign wars pretending to be the policeman of the world? The problem is the Military Industrial Complex and its need to feed itself endlessly. As long as that exists, we will keep fighting un-necessary wars and spend vast sum of money on various weapons.

    12. Will - Nanchang, Chi says:

      Hey guys, I have a couple of thoughts on this:

      1) DJ,

      Please get your facts straight. From Wikipedia:

      The 2009 U.S. military budget accounts for approximately 40% of global arms spending and is over six times larger than the military budget of China (compared at the nominal US dollar / Renminbi rate, not the PPP rate). The United States and its close allies are responsible for two-thirds to three-quarters of the world's military spending (of which, in turn, the U.S. is responsible for the majority).[25][26][27]

      In 2005, the United States spent 4.06% of its GDP on its military (considering only basic Department of Defense budget spending), more than France's 2.6% and less than Saudi Arabia's 10%.[28] This is historically low for the United States since it peaked in 1944 at 37.8% of GDP (it reached the lowest point of 3.0% in 1999–2001). Even during the peak of the Vietnam War the percentage reached a high of 9.4% in 1968.[29]

      2) Pure and simple, the U.S. defense budget over the previous years has increased primarily because of a) increased involvement in fighting terrorism around the world since 2001 b) conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan c) procurement to replace old equipment with increased support costs

      3) America has the largest GDP of any nation, so the dollar amount for the defense budget will be proportionately the same. As a percentage of GDP, the defense budget is a very mediore 4.06%.

      4) In a global 21st century world, everything is connected. U.S interests will always go beyond our own physical borders. Although I deplore the recent Wikileaks release, they show that the main crux of U.S. foreign policy has been to insure regional stability in many of the world's hotspots.

      And finally, as shown with the recent spats with North Korea and China, the threat and presence of force is often just as effective as force itself.

      Indeed, if presence of force from the United States deters rogue states from war, then it is worth every penny.

    13. Pingback: Must Know Headlines 12.05.2010 — ExposeTheMedia.com

    14. Pingback: Plain Punditry » Should Defense Spending Be Cut?

    15. Pingback: This is not the time to make cuts in the Defense budget «Coach is Right

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×