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  • Guest Blog: Rep. Todd Akin on Budgeting for the Common Defense

    Next week, the House Budget Committee will consider the fiscal year 2012 budget resolution in what is expected to be a marathon committee markup.  The committee faces a dire budget reality; with entitlement spending that is absorbing essentially all of our federal income, while non-security discretionary spending is dramatically increasing. We now borrow roughly forty cents of every dollar we spend.  In this grim budget situation, we must dramatically cut federal spending and reform entitlements. However, I do not believe that all government spending is equal. Instead, I believe that the Constitution lays out certain responsibilities that are essential and can only be accomplished by the federal government—primarily providing for a common defense.

    Next week, I expect to see amendments in the Budget Committee that will cut defense spending–either to transfer defense funds to domestic spending priorities, or simply to reduce the size of our deficit.  I believe reducing defense spending right now is a bad idea—let me explain why.

    First, our military is already stretched thin.  Today we have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are doing humanitarian relief in Japan, we are enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and we are fighting piracy off of Somalia and more.  Our soldiers and Marines are facing rapid and repeated deployments.  While we may not agree that all of these missions are essential, it would be irresponsible to cut funds for troops that are in harms’ way.  While some may think that downsizing defense is as simple as cutting funding for futuristic weapons technology or changing our foreign policy posture, the reality is that most defense funding is paying for the military we have today, including fuel, maintenance, health care and salaries.  Cutting defense spending will have a serious impact on the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that are serving our country today as well as in the future.

    Secondly, many who propose defense cuts argue that there must be waste in a budget the size of the Department of Defense, so cutting the defense budget is reasonable.  I agree that there is waste, but simply chopping a percentage off the top of defense funding is an inefficient and irresponsible way of trying to eliminate wasteful spending.  Congress is part of the problem, with funding levels that are unpredictable and oversight that is often weak or lacking.  Getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse is necessary but it is a wholly inadequate budget strategy because these cuts represent a small percentage of the defense budget.

    Thirdly, we must be clear about the fact that our budget crisis is driven primarily by entitlement spending.  The Heritage Foundation has a chart that lays the problem out clearly (http://www.heritage.org/budgetchartbook/defense-entitlement-spending).  The chart would look even worse if interest on our debt, which functions much like an entitlement, is included.  In 2010, total federal revenue was consumed by entitlement programs and interest on our debt.  This will only get worse unless we seriously consider reforming these entitlements. The only way to address our budget situation long term is through entitlement reform.

    Lastly, the preamble of our Constitution talks about providing for a common defense and promoting the general welfare. I believe the distinction between those words is important.  The Constitution gives Congress the specific responsibility “to raise and support armies” as well as “provide and maintain a navy.”  In contrast, the constitutionality of much entitlement spending is debatable.  Should we cut what may be the most basic constitutional function of the government to pay for a function that is of a questionable constitutional nature?

    Defense spending may be an attractive target in the Budget Committee markup and on the House floor shortly thereafter, but the Constitution prioritizes providing for a common defense and spending on defense should not be treated as equal to other portions of federal spending.  There is no question we need to make sure we get every penny’s worth of value out of defense spending, but simply slashing defense is not the answer.  Not only are there serious risks associated with cutting defense, it also would mean that we are cutting a constitutional priority of the government to pay for a series of programs of questionable constitutional merit.

    Rep. Todd Akin serves on the Armed Services Committee. He represents Missouri’s 2nd congressional district.

    The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Guest Blog: Rep. Todd Akin on Budgeting for the Common Defense

    1. West Texan says:

      Congressman Akin wrote "…the preamble of our Constitution talks about providing for a common defense and promoting the general welfare."

      The congressman's priorities reflect well the meaning of the preamble of which he speaks. As a dual sovereign country, our founders well defined the limits of federal power to national defense and foreign policy whereas states retained all domestic oversight. This arrangement in itself promoted the general welfare. Unfortunately, federal government's continued takeover of states' affairs has caused irreparable harm to our constitution's structural base. For this reason, it's only a matter of time before the America so many fought and sacrificed for collapses in on itself because of power grabbing arrogance.

    2. Martin says:

      Actually Representative, the Constitution says we're not supposed to maintain a standing Army. At most we should have a navy and Marines. Somehow, I never hear anyone mention that…

    3. North Texan says:

      As an American and a veteran, I cannot imagine NOT having a standing Army/Marines/Navy/Air Force at all times. I would hope we have learned our lessons twice now. On 2 separate occasions we have been attacked. We have lost thousands of lives in those attacks. I cannot imagine what the outcome would have been had we not had a standing military. It was bad enough trying to recover from both attacks with the military we had. If we de-fund the military and the Veterans Administration, we are, in fact, saying to any agressor: "here we are, ripe for the taking. Come get us". I would pray that our representatives would keep America strong. A little more Reagen-ism is called for here.

    4. George Colgrove VA says:

      Martin,

      The constitution authorizes congress to maintain only a navy and by that boats and the minimal staff to ensure they are ready for battle. Defense is based on a two year reauthorization. If you look at the history of defense spending you see that we have a war, for which there is allocation of funds to fight that war. Upon the conclusion of that war (a few years at the most) the costs nearly zero out again. This was essentially true up to WWI. But even after WWI, defense spending dropped back down to what would be today $15 to $30 billion.

      There has always been a defense budget, but this was to maintain the naval ships and to pay for a small staff at the war department – not a standing army. Though I do beleive there was a small federally paid contingent ready to go at any time. In the founder's time the military was comprised of separate militias maintaned either by concerned citizens or states. The President had the authority to assemble these militias and lead them to war upon approval by congress. The founders almost entirely opposed standing armies for fear they would meddle in the affairs of the world.

      You are right the constitution never authorized, at its inception or by any amendment a standing army. We are still working with the military created by the Korean War for which we have been reauthorizing since then. Thats why the defense budget is always preceeded by the word "reauthorize". After WWII, we completed the administrative duties of closing down the war. And as you can see by the defense budgets in the 40's up to the 50's we went from what today would be over a trillion dollars to a piddly $192 billion in a few years. That is because, there were no wars, so the military was cut down drastically and the soldiers were sent home to become active memebrs of the private sector workforce. There was no need to authorize the size of the military in peace times. However the Pentagon was built and the federal workforce invaded the war department. What was a lean and mean department, became the bloated self serving and greedy sloth it is today.

      As predicted by Jefferson's concerns our DoD became antsy and needed a war. Korea popped up; then Veitnam; then Cambodia; then some middle eastern skirmishes; then some more middle eastern skirmished; then some skirmishes in the Balkins, not to mention a few island nations aloong the way; then back to the middle east, which is where we are today. Today the DHS is feeding Mexico with weapons, so it would not suprize me that we will be at war with Mexico in the near future.

      You will not find the DoD short of some war like activity (or at peace) since Korea that lasted more than two years. Mark Stein hosted Rush Limbaugh's show yesterday and made reference to the fact the DoD is still under the 1950's cold war mindset and spending as if money was not a factor. Jefferson's concerns were correct:

      "A standing army has always been used by despots to enforce their rule and to keep their people under subjection. Its existence was therefore considered a great threat to peace and stability in a republic and a danger to the rights of the nation. Since every aspect of government was designed to prevent the rise of tyranny, strict limits and control over the military were considered absolutely necessary. It was essential that the military be subordinate to civilian control. "

      "There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army." –Thomas Jefferson to David Humphreys, 1789. ME 7:323

      "I do not like [in the new Federal Constitution] the omission of a Bill of Rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for… protection against standing armies." –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. ME 6:387

      "Nor is it conceived needful or safe that a standing army should be kept up in time of peace for [defense against invasion]." –Thomas Jefferson: 1st Annual Message, 1801. ME 3:334

      "Standing armies [are] inconsistent with [a people's] freedom and subversive of their quiet." –Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Lord North's Proposition, 1775. Papers 1:231

      "The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force." –Thomas Jefferson to Chandler Price, 1807. ME 11:160

      "A distinction between the civil and military [is one] which it would be for the good of the whole to obliterate as soon as possible." –Thomas Jefferson: Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786. ME 17:90

      "There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war." –Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776. Papers 1:363

      "The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so." –Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1814. ME 14:184

      "Bonaparte… transferred the destinies of the republic from the civil to the military arm. Some will use this as a lesson against the practicability of republican government. I read it as a lesson against the danger of standing armies." –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Adams, 1800. ME 10:154

    5. George Colgrove VA says:

      The CIA – the self-described premeir intelligence community of the globe – who has yet to get anything right on matters of National Security asked for over $500 billion this week.

      Why you ask? Was if for new equiment or some new analysts? How about a new luxurous office building to compete with the DoD's Mark Center megaplex? Was it anything like that?

      NO! it was so they could fund their depleating pension plan. This is greed! There are 114 million active taxpayers, and what the CIA is asking for is for these taxpayers (who are loosing their jobs, homes and their own benefits and are likely right now knawing at their meeger retirements just to live) to caugh up an additional $4,390 to cover people who earn twice what they do and live lavish lifestyles in DC!

      Mark Stein asked an important question of these wizards of smarts. Since data and intellegence analysis is their game, why could they not see this coming? My answer is because they are feds.

    6. George Colgrove VA says:

      The Pentagon has so much money it wants to spend $600,000 on a single peice of sculpture for its lavish office building they are constructing in Alexandria, VA (Mark Center). If this was even thought of, they have too much money.

      We the taxpayer are getting killed by the federal workforce in these stupid meaningless, but very expensive and frivoulous items. $600,000 can provide 20 people with incomes of $30,000 and it is being wasted on art for these fedeal workers. NOT GOOD!

      http://theswash.com/2011/03/31/pentagon-art-60000

      It is not who you are that defines you it is what you do – and this shows the Pentagon as a wastfull department set upon making themselves, not the nation, safe and secure and an enjoyable place to work.

    7. Pingback: Representatives Defend Joint Strike Fighter Program Against ‘Irresponsible’ Budget Cuts : 24 News Desk

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