• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • VIDEO: Protecting America Requires A Strong Defense

    “National defense receives unique and elevated emphasis under the Constitution,” writes Ernest Istook of The Heritage Foundation. “It is not ‘just’ another duty of the federal government.” But as Congress looks for much-need cuts in federal spending, some are wrongly looking to balance the budget by decimating defense. That’s a dangerous road to head down.

    As we note in our new video, we live in a hostile world, and being prepared — no matter the challenge — is key to the federal government living up to its constitutional duty to protect America. But as even as the military continues to wage war overseas, defense spending is at historic lows, all while critical investments in modern equipment are postponed. Jim Talent, distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation and former U.S. senator explains where our military stands today:

    The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since 1916. The Air Force inventory is smaller and older than at any time since the service came into being in 1947. The Army has missed several generations of modernization, and many of its soldiers are on their fourth or fifth tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Reserves have been on constant mobilization; many vital programs, such as missile defense, have been cut; and in the past two years, no fewer than 50 modernization programs have been ended.

    Despite all this, President Barack Obama has called for $400 billion in cuts to our already overstretched military. Istook says that shortchanging defense in the budget debate ignores the emphasis placed on defense in the Constitution.

    Article I, Section 8 enumerates the powers of Congress in 17 separate clauses. Six of these pertain to national defense. These include raising and supporting armies and a navy, making the rules that govern the armed forces, and organizing, arming, and disciplining the state-level militia as well as the army and navy.

    Unfortunately, current budget discussions are lopsided when they place military spending on the same priority level—or worse—as other spending. It is the height of irony that social spending is considered ‘mandatory’ whereas defense spending is considered ‘discretionary.’

    If you’re concerned about federal spending (and why wouldn’t you be with the $14.3 trillion debt), keep in mind that even if Congress eliminated all defense spending, that still would not solve the federal spending crisis. There’s another reason not to cut defense, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warns:

    If you cut the defense budget by 10%, which would be catastrophic in terms of force structure, that’s $55 billion out of a $1.4 trillion deficit,” he told the Journal’s CEO Council conference last November. “We are not the problem.”

    Making those cuts isn’t a prerequisite to balancing the budget, either. Heritage’s new “Saving the American Dream” plan balances the budget without relying on tax increases, and it does so without gutting defense. And ensuring that our military is prepared today can even save money in the long term by deterring potential aggression against our interests and avoiding budget spikes to build up U.S. forces after a threat has shown up at America’s doorstep.

    What do you think about calls to cut defense? Do you think it’s in keeping with our federal government’s constitutional duty? Join the conversation with a comment below.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to VIDEO: Protecting America Requires A Strong Defense

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Q1: What do you think about calls to cut defense?

      I think in these days when federal spending is 57% unfunded, we should consider cuts where DoD spending has nothing to do with defense!

      Recently Sec. Gates admitted that the DoD Bureaucracy is largely unworkable and that spending for some things range between 5 to 10 times over what the price should be.

      If you take the approved FY11 and FY12 budgets and consider the following:

      Class A Items (Active and Engaged)


      2.Current effective field operations

      3.Absolutely necessary and working hardware

      4.Maintenance and upkeep of the materials and equipment for the war effort

      5.Equipment and tasks that without them would impair our immediate needs for field operations.

      6.Emergency healthcare for field operations

      Class B Items (Preparatory and immediate support)

      1.A Consolidated intelligence gathering program

      2.Necessary primary support to the war effort including minimal administrative support


      4.Current ineffective field operations

      5.Maintenance and upkeep of the materials and equipment not needed for the war effort

      6.Equipment and tasks that without them would impair our ability to prepare for field operations.

      7.Planning and strategizing in war times

      Class C Items (Planning and engaging)

      1.Research and development for future hardware

      2.Security administrative duties that cannot be consolidated elsewhere

      3.Planning and strategizing in non-war times

      Class D Items (General government)

      1.Non-military or non-combat (i.e. administrative functions) that have similar functions being done elsewhere in the federal government.

      2.Research and development of administrative procedures and processes

      3.Federal employees

      Class E Items (Non-essential)

      1.All other items not listed in the classes above.

      List all the hundreds of thousands if not millions of positions, tasks and equipment in a column and assign a class (A-E) to them and list their cost. Sort the list by class (A through E), then by cost (most to least). Sum the list starting from the top to the bottom. Once you get to the reduced DoD budget amount, everything below that is eliminated. If the break off point is above the Class D items, these items should be consolidated outside the DoD with other similar federal government functions. If the cutoff is in Class C items, then these items need to be simplified for cost reduction until the proposed budget has been achieved. Class A shall see no cuts. Class B should see simplifications if necessary. Class E items should be cut – period.

      Q2: Do you think it’s in keeping with our federal government’s constitutional duty?

      Defense (i.e. soldiers, working and necessary hardware, efficient field operations controlled mainly in the field with clear objectives and the authority to meet those objectives) YES!

      Was the exorbitant 2005 BRAC? NO!

      Is the need for 700,000 overpaid and over numbered federal workers? NO!

      Is performing payroll for a non-military department like DHHS? NO!

      Is performing payroll period? NO!

      Is having 16 competing and overlapping intelligence agencies? NO!

      Is having replicative program offices for each of the military branches and the redundant DoD office? NO!

      Is having a congress member propose a needless weapons system just to create jobs in his district? NO!

      Is having our soldiers aid in education and rebuilding efforts? NO!

      Is having the DoD perform jobs creation programs? NO!

      I can go on and on.

    2. George Colgrove, VA says:

      We need to keep in mind; every increase to the DoD budget had a corresponding “compromised” increases in mostly entitlements but also other federal department budgets. There is a very tightly woven fabric of compromises (or sell outs if you want to be honest) between massive defense spending increases over the last ten years and the even more massive increases in entitlement spending.

      To decrease one WILL require decreases to the other. Our jobs as conservatives are to ensure the right cuts are made to the DoD budget. Standing firm on a budget amount will not get us to a balanced budget any time soon. This is the dirty business of politics I am so often reminded of. But we are running out of time – and we need to do what is necessary to control the growth of government and the danger of the size of the national debt. Even if this work requires ridding the DoD of its bloated bureaucracy and wasteful and redundant spending.

    3. Dinah Garrison Fairb says:

      Be careful. I will certainly admit I don't know how to do this, but as @George, there are cuts that can be made. However, I am stating again: If we don't have a strong defense, none of the entitlement programs will matter a hoot. The money must go where it is most needed in defense. I don't know who we can trust to make the decisions about what can go and what actually needs to be increased such as money for updated weapon systems. Politicians with an ax to grind or committees who spend years fighting over decisions don't seem to work.

    4. Pingback: The Debt Is Not a Game, Mr. President | The Foundry

    5. Gregg Weber, Seattle says:

      For those that will bring up Ike and the "military-industrial complex" I have something to write.

      Not long ago scholarly students of the speech have discovered that early drafts were "military-industrial-congressional complex" and surmised that the third part was eliminated so as not to offend Congress. This according to the book "Words that changed the world" which went into 25 speeches, this being one of them.

      Just as too much influence — to little can make us vulnerable. With much diverted there is a point where not enough is available for defence from every form of attack. The weakest link in the chain. The weakest pipe or seal in the submarine. Many other possibilities. No matter how much is spent in other places, the enemy will get in.

      Look at Vietnam. The weak link; training and news to the public (Training for 13 wars and passing down what was learned, Getting the real news to the public.)

      In that same speech, Ike said two interesting paragraphs starting 5 paragraphs before MIComplex begining with "Crisis there will continue to be." and ending the second paragraph with "lack of it eventually finds unbalance and frustration."

    6. Pingback: Morning Bell: The Debt Is Not a Game, Mr. President

    7. Poole1Dan, Milford, says:

      In the 1800's, while the United States was revolutionizing its economy and its standard of living, it was not America that had the strongest military in the world, but Great Britain.

      At the peak of its hegemonic status, Britain had more Navy ships (about 40) than the next four countries COMBINED (38). Britains leaders-most notably William Gladstone-subscribed to the theory that the country that controls the seas controls the world.

      In the 1800's, it can be argued that this was a true statement. For example, Britain was the only country that actively participated in "free trade" as we've come to know it. Historians credit Britain with creating the first wave of globalization. Perhaps the main reason Britain was able to participate in free trade is because it used its all-powerful Navy to protect trade routes from pirates and other rogue enemies.

      All nations greatly benefited from Britains protection of the seas. America would have had a very difficult time fulfilling its duties under the Monroe Doctrine without the British Navy helping to patrol the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

      But here's the catch: while Britain's Naval power was unmatched all the way up to World War I, it's Army was average at best. Whereas Germany and Russia each had over 1 million soldiers at their disposal by the late 1800's, Britain had only 200,000.

      Why is this?

      Because a large Army just wasn't needed to sustain the Britains hegemonic status (or, much more importantly, to protect its citizens at home). Britain invested its military resources effeciently and effectively, and it wasn't until the imperialistic Boer War of 1898-1902 that Britains relatively small Army came under the microscope.

      Common sense tells us that what works is right. If America is to maintain its hegemonic status in the world and protect its people, should we not follow the successful blue print that Britain laid out for us?

      More specifically, should we not invest our military resources in the institution of the military that is of the greatest strategic importance instead of just saying "EVERYTHING MUST BE HUGE!!!" like too many members of the Heritage Foundation so wrongfully advocate?

      I'll cut straight to the chase: the fact that military spending as a percentage of the economy has gone down from 80% in the late 50's to less than 20% today, and the fact that the Navy is the smallest its been since 1916, doesn't mean CRAPOLLA unless the pre-conceived goal is an imperialistic empire rivaling that of Rome.

      Furthermore, America's defense budget of $700 billion is TWICE that of Russia, who has the second largest defense budget in the world at $300 billion. If the American military was an MLB team, we've gone from 162-0 in the late 50's to 97-65 today (a 60% decrease). But unlike baseball, where you usually have to win 100 games to get the best record, Russia would be only like 43-119 in comparison, which is the same as the historically bad 2003 Detroit Tigers.

      Bottom line: America still has by far and away the most well-funded and strongest military in the world. 2 years ago we shot down that space object traveling at 17,000 MPH. If I read correctly, no enemy missile can travel that fast.

      This is not to say that Obama's $400 billion in defense cuts should be passed into law. In the 21st century, those who control the skies control the world. Therefore, we absolutely SHOULD maintain an Air Force that's twice as large and as strong as the rest of the world, and we should continually update our missile systems at all levels. Just watching the scene from "Air Force One" starring Harrison Ford where those 5 American fighter jets destroy the Russian Migs gives a tantalizing taste of what our Air Force can do.

      But the Navy? The Army? And even the Marines? Absolutely no person of significance is saying they should be eliminated. But we could have only have the 5th largest force of each of those, and it wouldn't matter as long as we maintain dominance over the skies and don't insist on imperials wars…..

      ….Oh wait, thats right! The war hawks and neocons insist we "fight for freedom" in Afghanistan, Iraq, Eastern Europe, South America, the Korean border, and virtually everywhere! *cough cough* AMERICAN EMPIRE! *cough cough* AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM! *cough cough*

      I love the Heritage Foundation and all the amazing research they publish in regards healthcare, environmentalist policies (eco-terrorism, as I call it), taxes, spending, regulations, Guantanamo Bay (yes, Guantanamo Bay; those monsters deserve to be tortured anyways), and so much more.

      But there are millions of Americans like me who, in good conscience, cannot support what Heritage is doing here. Hundreds of billions could probably be saved, and certainly thousands of our soldiers' lives would be saved, by pulling American troops out of the litany of places where they don't effing belong.

      Obama's plan to cut $400 billion without regard for priorities is ill-conceived. But the military status-quo (which Heritage supports at a minimum and infact wants to greatly expand) is also unacceptable.

    8. Paul Salvaggio says:

      The threats to our country or numerous, varied and imminent. To cut even one much less 50 modernization programs, let our inventory of ships, planes and other resources lag behind necessary requirements is inviting foreign enemies to catch up with us and surpass us in technology, resources and gain the physiological advantage we now enjoy. Many of our brave men and women in this fight for freedom will unnecessary lose their lives and freedom for political games we play today. Let us not let this happen. Now is the time to stand up and fight for our country on the political field before we have to fight for our lives and our freedom.

    9. Audrey Keisacker, Pa says:

      it is disastrous to have miliary spending discretionary. we need a strong national defense. The Heritage Foundation has the best plan.

      Audrey Keisacker Parrish, Florida, USA

    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.