Several days ago, Palin delivered a speech about foreign policy and defense issues. She said, in no uncertain terms, that she favors a strong US military and opposes defense spending reductions (as the US military is already forced to operate under a budget that equals only 3.65% of GDP).
Quin Hillyer concurred with Palin today:
“To her great credit, Sarah Palin is absolutely right on target in her insistence on maintaining a strong defense. Yesterday’s Washington Post featured a little report about how Palin is “waging a battle inside the “tea party” movement to exempt defense spending from the group’s small-government, anti-deficit fervor.” Good for her. The GOP Class of 1994 in Congress had too many members who did the same thing Palin warns against: letting their admirable enthusiasm for lower deficits/balanced budgets get in the way of a commitment to putting national defense first. Palin rightly warns against abandoning the central part of the Reagan belief system that insisted that freedom at home is dependent on a strong, unmatched military — firmly under civilian control, of course, and fully answerable to the need for efficiency and effectiveness, but not subject to arbitrary budget limits. Palin even directly took on that extremely disappointing Defense Secretary, Robert Gates.”
Indeed, during the 1990s, Republicans made a huge mistake by teaming with President Clinton and severely reducing defense spending. By 2000, the US military was decrepit and the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned the US Congress that the US military needed additional tens of billions of dollars per year just to replace its old equipment and retain talented personnel. Back then, defense spending was even lower than today (3% of GDP).
No significant savings can be made on defense, which accounts for only 3.65% of GDP and 14.44% of the federal budget. Significant savings can be made only on welfare programs, federal bureaucracies, subsidies and entitlement programs. Entitlement programs constitute by far the biggest part of the federal budget ($1.398 trillion per year), and welfare program spending is the second largest part ($888 bn per year).
Palin is right to say that defense spending should not be reduced – because defense spending (i.e. the core defense budget) pays for the US military, the institution that protects America 24/7 from its enemies. Nothing is more important than the US military.
America’s Founding Fathers knew it and said this multiple times; “the common defense” is one of the constitutional duties of the federal government and simoultaneously the #1 reason why the federal government was established in the first instance. Moreover, a commitment to a strong defense is an inseparable part of the conservative ideology, which Ronald Reagan professed.
(Speaking of whom, an interesting lesson: during the 1980s, Reagan refused to sacrifice America’s military and the defense budget to pay for welfare programs and the federal bureaucracy under the guise of “a balanced budget”. He rebuilt the US military (massacred during the 1970s by three consecutive administrations). He stopped the expansion of the Soviet empire, and he eventually toppled it. He simoultaneously HALVED the budget deficit from 6% of GDP to 3% of GDP and reduced the size of government from 23.5% of GDP to 21.5% of GDP.)
I’m glad that Hillyer and Palin have warned politicians and Tea Partiers against defense spending reductions.
I’m surprised, however, that neither Palin nor Hillyer debunked the SECDEF’s incorrect claim that the Navy relies on “$6 bn DDGs, $7 bn submarines and $11 bn carriers”. The USS Gerald Ford costs only $5.2 bn; the USS George HW Bush cost only $6.2 bn; an Arleigh Burke class surface combatant costs only $1.5 bn; a Virginia class submarine costs only $2 bn.