• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: Will Congress Defend Our Military?

    It’s one thing to talk a good game about cutting spending, but it’s quite another thing to actually do something about it. This week, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to finally set some limits on Washington’s spending spree while also ensuring that the U.S. military has the resources it needs to defend America. Here’s the lay of the land this week in the nation’s capital.

    On Thursday, the House is set to take up a spending reduction plan known inside the beltway as “reconciliation.” Under the measure, Congress would tackle two looming problems hanging over Washington’s head: the soaring cost of entitlement spending and the arbitrary defense cuts mandated by the so-called Budget Control Act (BCA) that was enacted last year.

    Those issues are nothing to gloss over, even though some in Washington would like to pretend they’re not a problem. Since 1965, spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security has more than tripled as a share of the economy, is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, hitting 9.7 percent of GDP this year, and will nearly double by 2050. Meanwhile, spending on defense has dropped over time, even when you add in the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As you can see in Heritage’s Federal Budget in Pictures, that means that spending on entitlement programs is crowding out spending on defense — a core constitutional function of government.

    The U.S. military is about to get slashed and burned even further under automatic spending cuts known as “sequestration,” which is mandated under last year’s Budget Control Act. Under sequestration, future defense spending will be cut across the board by nearly $500 billion beginning next year. Add in the $487 billion in cuts already put forward by the President in February (as projected by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta), America’s military will see its budget drop on average by $100 billion annually over the next decade.

    Panetta warned that those cuts will be “devastating,” leaving America with “[t]he smallest ground forces since 1940,” “a fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915,” and “[t]he smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.” General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, bluntly told Congress that the mandated reductions create “very high risk” to national security.

    Some in Congress would like to rely on defense cuts in order to balance the budget while keeping spending on entitlement programs intact. But that just won’t work. Even if defense spending were completely eliminated, entitlements would continue to drive deficits to unmanageable levels. That’s why Congress must take action to get that spending under control.

    Heritage’s Patrick Louis Knudsen writes that though the budget reconciliation falls short in some areas — namely, it suspends only one year of the sequestration, meaning Congress would have to address the issue again in 2013 — he says it is a key part of implementing the budget passed by the House in March. The benefit, Knudsen explains, is that it is “the only fully developed plan for addressing the near-term problem of sequestration and the longer-term issue of runaway entitlement spending.”

    Under the reconciliation plan, national security capabilities would be protected and the sequestration’s deep defense cuts would be reversed. As for entitlement spending, the plan introduces important reforms to the food stamp program, which has grown dramatically under President Obama, with spending shooting from $39 billion in 2008 to $80 billion in 2012. Knudsen explains that the reconciliation plan eliminates categorical eligibility — the policy of granting cash welfare assistance regardless of one’s income or assets. In addition, the plan finds savings by reforming the National Flood Insurance Program and ending the Obama Administration’s ineffective housing bailout, the Housing Affordable Modification Program, among other measures.

    Knudsen writes that “The longer Congress delays, the more likely are steep, sudden benefit cuts, sharply higher taxes, deeper deficits and debt — or all of the above.” Washington can’t keep putting off its fundamental duty to enact a budget and get spending under control, and it shouldn’t try to solve the nation’s fiscal crisis by gutting America’s national security.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    27 Responses to Morning Bell: Will Congress Defend Our Military?

    1. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      The real question is, "Will Heritage stop defending life-long politicians and begin to look to ways to build support to limit 30+ year lifers in Congress, who spend more time having lunch and dinner with notable Heritage administratiors and begin supporting indiviudals who serve for the preservation of our country.

      You just lost a 30+ lifer…you better start lineing up to support statesmen/woman…not lifers who take you to dinner on the taxpayers' money.

      (Don't worry…I know this will not make it for a pubic comment.)

    2. Turner says:

      The better question that we must first answer: Will Obama use our military to defend us or to supply our assets to a secret UN initiative that intend to destroy us?

    3. toledofan says:

      No matter how you slice the pie, until entitlement spending is brought under control, nothing will change and I, also, think, cutting defense spending or the budget, at this time is suicide; China and Russia are flexing their muscles, the middle east is in turmoil and the terrorists still want to create havoc here in America. Our foriegn policy is in disray and today we have little or no bargaining chips left to persuade the rogue states to get in line. In addition, by choice, the democrats haven't developed a budget in over 1000 days and their continued arrogance signals exactly what the real problems are. Until they are voted out nothing will change and we will see America brought to her knees by a ideology that we know doesn't work.

    4. Mickie says:

      Please do not include Social Security and Medicare under "entitlements". We, the recipients, have paid our into Social Security and continue to pay for Medicare. Entitlements are those that are given for nothing invested.
      Remember it was CONGRESS who 'borrowed' the dedicated Social Security funds and never paid it back. And we talk about reforming the Campaign Contributions bill … are you kidding? Every Congressman/woman depends on campaign contributions so they aren't about to bite the hands that feed them.

    5. Ken Jarvis says:

      The First thing Bush did after he invaded Iraq was,
      cut VA Benefits.
      Now, All of a sudden, the HF – Cares? – about the Military?
      Probably NOT.

    6. Frank says:

      Entitlement programs, hmmmmmmmmmmmm, seems to me that I have been paying into the Social Security system for the past 47 years – AND have not started collecting as yet. HOWEVER, hundreds of thousands who HAVE NOT PAID IN ONE CENT, are getting Social Security benefits. How does that work? Maybe if we quit giving Social Security to people who have NOT paid into the system, it would not be growing. Please don't blame it on the fact that more people are getting older, put the blame where it belongs – Social Security ENTITLEMENT for those who have NOT paid into the system. Let us not forget that CONGRESS has borrowed BILLIONS of dollars from the Social Security fund and have NEVER repaid any of it. So, let's not blame working people who are now getting older, that they tax on their Social Security yet again.

    7. Lee Farquharson says:

      I work for the Federal government and I see how the budgets are prepared. I'm a fiscal conservative and I shudder each year when we begin to put together the budget request.

      There is only one way to cut the deficit spending and reduce debt and it's not just cutting in the discretionary budget. There is little to be gained there. Yes we can improve some efficiencies. Congress has got to overhaul or completely eliminate programs. The Federal government needs quit being a nanny state with new regulations. If people do stupid things there ought to be consequences.

      We need to elect new representatives and senators and then call for 4 specific constitutional amendments: 1 – term limits; 2 – clarify the second amendment; 3 – some sort of balanced budget amendment; and 4 – repeal of the direct taxation amendment.

      The current senate members that haven't passed a budget need to be impeached and removed from office. All czars need to be eliminated. Why have czars? Aren't Cabinet secretaries the President's advisors? Limit the White House budget.

      Thank you.

      • 4arepublic says:

        Lee, you make very good points. I would also add the need for every Congresscritter, every member of the executive branch and every member of the Supreme Court to fully understand the 10th amendment. It is among the most abused.

    8. Curt Krehbiel says:

      "Panetta warned that those cuts will be "devastating," leaving America with "[t]he smallest ground forces since 1940," "a fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915," and "[t]he smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force."

      Reductions in defense spending and implementation of socialism or communism are the President's plan for his version of the United States. Should he be given a second term this country as we have known it will no longer exist.

    9. stephen says:

      Good, cut it all off, then we can wait for the enemy to take over the world, if they come to America we can depend on all our Militias to hold the front lines, after all they've been wanting a good fight for a long time, we'll see just how Patriotic they really are.

    10. Joseph McKennan says:

      'There are no declared wars in the world' is what I would say if I was cutting the budget and sitting at a round table with other decision makers. We would be looking at a world globe and asking each other if there was any evidence of smoke arising from the globe.
      We would decide that what is needed now is a pacifist approach to the world and would take down all of our defenses and dismantle the military. After all, we are the leaders of the free world. Then, as a gesture of complete confidence in the good feeling that this produces, we could put our head in a hole and play ostrich.
      Afghanistan. Cuba, Egypt, France, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venzuela, and others would be tickled indeed to see this and encourage us to keep on playing. They would reassure us that we are doing the right thing- making us feel so proud of ourselves. " Keep your head in the hole America because we are preparing a big surprise for you. "

    11. Brenda says:

      Although I am in agreement with the facts stated, I don't understand why Social Security is constantly referred to as "Entitlement". I have contributed a large portion of my paychecks throughout my life to Social Security and have therefore earned the benefit. It is not an entitlement unless no contributions have been made and benefits are collected. That may be the case in some cases, but the majority of Americans have earned that benefit!

    12. Bill Wiliamson says:

      In regards to the to the spending, all Congress needs to do is require all welfare payments be made only to US citizens and the money problem on welfare (food stamps, etc) will go away.

    13. BAM says:

      Payroll, Retirement plans and Health care for Senators, Representatives, et al, Welfare, Section 8 Housing, Food Stamps, Free Cell Phones, Free School breakfasts, lunches, Farm subsidies, Corporate Bailouts, Foreign Aid and the list goes on and on. All of these are entitlements that are breaking the backs of working Americans. Notice I did not mention our military because I do believe in our national defense and I do support our military and our veterans. Let’s reign in the benefits for politicians and I’ll bet we would have plenty of money for our military and veterans. But please do not label Social Security or Medicare entitlements (as you would describe entitlements). Social Security and Medicare were taken out of our pay checks before (Federal or States) taxes. We as seniors have paid into these so called “entitlements” all of our working lives along with our employers. It is an "entitlement” because it is entitled to those who have paid for it. Okay, so you don't like Social Security and Medicare I get that.but I've had to pay into it as an employee and so have my employers so excuse me if I feel "entitled".

    14. @larsd4 says:

      Borrow even more money to fund our military all around the world? You can't be serious. We spend more than everyone else combined. Bring the troops home. Germany and Japan first. South Korea next. Raise the tax on oil to reflect our true costs of protecting regimes and transporting it. Drill at home. These wars have got to stop.

    15. Yes America is facing an uncertain future. Unfortunately Americans now don't seem to have the same values and work ethic that the people who survived the depression had. We need to get our facts straight, educate ourselves on the constitution, and be ready to defend our God-given rights as American citizens. We need to look for the truth in what is going on in government and if it is wrong, we have to make noise, shout out to our officials and if that does not work, vote out the officials who are unwilling to do the right thing. Our future is hanging in the balance and November 2012 is just around the corner.

    16. Jeanne Stotler says:

      If we forget the past we aredoomed to repeat it, didn't we do this bore with dire results??

    17. RonPaul2012 says:

      We should not be cutting defense spending…. we need to cut the spending of nation building everywhere but at home! I am tired of going into other countries, starting wars just so we can spend billions of dollars to build up our enemy to OUR satisfaction! Let's get OUT of the world's affairs….. spend our money on ensuring we have the BEST military in the world to defend us when we are attacked or intercepting those initiatives. I am tired of being the world's police!

    18. RennyG says:

      It is what it is and it is going to be what it is going to be!! I just cannot believe they are doing this.
      They want more money, why don't the so called leaders stop giving illegal allians$4+billion in tax refunds for child care for children not around. But we have millions and millions and millions of money being pumped into elections. Why not give that miney to our military who are fighting and dying to enable our political people to play games and still get paid!!!!

    19. Ron W. Smith says:

      I agree that gutting defense spending isn't the way to go. However, the fact that we spend more on National Defense than any other country does and, in fact, spend more on National Security than the rest of the world combined, the issue is what we mean by "gutting." If gutting National Defense means overlooking that China, for instance, only needs, for their national defense, 20% of what we seem to need for ours, I think there's an issue taxpayers here should be aware of: our willingness to continue spending annually in lean times at the same rate we spent in flusher ones, our willingness to be Superpower on Call on the taxpayer's dime while calling for the "gutting" of needed domestic services and needs.
      The core problem is our foreign policy. Because of nation building costs, high expense for foreign aid designed to gain the cooperation of other countries, huge homeland security overhead necessitated by our willingness to be the target of terrorists, and an ever-growing budget at Veterans Affairs necessitated by intervention after intervention and war after war, it is our foreign policy decisions that need open discussion and debate so that taxpayers in the U.S. can see what we've bought into at their expense and at the expense of domestic needs.
      "Gutting" a bloated National Defense budget is only part of gutting that could be done once all related expenses are dragged in and made part of a national discussion and debate that taxpayers ought to be free to hear and judge. Being Superpower on Call is very expensive business that at $1,000,000,000,,000 a year is front and center in why there's a huge national debt, front and center in why hawks are after domestic programs instead when budget cutting is on the table.
      I'm all for a strong National Defense. I'm not, though, for maintenance of hegemony's overall cost disguised as "National Defense."

    20. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Yes, it will.

    21. David Creighton says:

      I get tired of everyone calling Social Security and Medicare an entitlement. It isn't. As a self-employed individual, I paid over 15% of my gross salary into Social Security and Medicare every year. For which, I get about half as much as if I had put that money into a 401 K, but I wasn't allowed to. If Congress hadn't stolen the money we put in, plus gving it out to people who haven't contributed, we wouldn't have been in this fix. We should reduce Congress' salaries and benefits, and make them get a job on the outside. Let them find out what it's like to have to work in the real world.

    22. AD-RtR/OS! says:

      If Sec. Panetta believes that the "reconciliation" cuts will be so "devastating", perhaps he shouldn't be squandering so many of the Pentagon's hard fought for appropriation Dollars on "green fuels" for the Navy and other Forces?

    23. Tom says:

      I agree that the cost of "Entitlements" is getting out of hand but your wording on the military cuts were lacking. You left out one key word "future defense spending INCREASES". I'm sure your familiar with John Stossell and the facts bear out that defense spending is not going down only the rate of spending. Spending continues to increase just at a slower rate. The Presidents "proposed" decreases are just that, proposed. You and I both know his proposed budget is going nowhere. As a retired AF member and still closely associated with the military I know there is still a significant amount of wasteful spending. I might also add that the defense unions add considerably to the inefficiency of the spending.

    24. Wayne, La says:

      This brings into focus the main problem of too much spending. Defense can continue of be an asset for this country only if a prudent and economical development of new defensive hardware is produced and maintained. The days of trillion dollar expenditures for military hardware are coming to an end. Social Security, Medicare and the flood insurance program are supported by the taxpayers. The citizens pay premiums for these programs. If the Government cannot manage these programs effectively, then they need to be offered by the private sector. The Government needs to provide the means for people to establish reasonable and effective alternatives to these assistance programs.

    25. Wayne Peterkin says:

      The number one priority of the federal government is national security. While I would agree that money spent on national defense must be spent wisely and some savings may be possible, the Defense Department must be our first budget consideration in a very dangerous world. It must not be gutted, nor should our nuclear arsenal be unilaterally dismantled as Obama suggested just a couple of months ago.

    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.