The Heritage Foundation’s study on America’s defense needs

The Heritage Foundation has done an exhaustive, comprehensive study (review) of the global threat environment, America’s defense commitments, its global military posture, and its defense needs, and it has concluded that both the current defense budget (for FY2011) and the defense budget requested by the Obama Administration for FY2012 are totally inadequate for America’s defense needs, and that budget cuts below these spending levels would be even worse – downright disastrous.

The HF is, as usual, right. Its review HF says:

“The U.S. military force structure envisioned by the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the President’s FY 2012 budget request is inadequate to protect vital U.S. national interests. After the “procurement holiday” during the 1990s and the wear and tear of the “long war against terrorism” in Iraq and Afghanistan, all military services urgently need to recapitalize and modernize their inventories. Over the long term, failure to invest the funds needed to rebuild the U.S. military in the near term will increase not only the costs, but also the risks to the nation and endanger U.S. allies and friends.

This assessment of U.S. force structure provides a practical guide to understanding how well the current and projected U.S. military posture meets the constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense. This assessment is based on answers to three vital questions:

  • What are the current and emerging significant challenges to U.S. security?
  • What present and future U.S. capabilities are required to address them?
  • How much will building and maintaining these forces cost over the next five years?”

It then analyzes what force structure, equipment, personnel, training, and funding the DOD will need in total, and how much in the various regions of the world (the homeland, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa). Special emphasis was put on defending the homeland, including on the task of protecting America’s southern border.

The review concludes thus:

“Some may argue that the U.S. spends more than all other countries combined on national defense and therefore can drastically cut defense budgets. This analysis makes it clear that America’s military requirements should depend on a careful analysis of threats, capabilities, and requirements, not on superficial comparisons of countries’ defense budgets. America’s military strategy should be determined by the global requirements involved in meeting the objectives of its strategy, not by how much other nations spend.

Others argue that the U.S. has rapidly increased defense spending since 1999. While defense spending has risen significantly since 1999, it did so mainly because of the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the overall war on terrorism. However, these costs are temporary and not part of the permanent long-term core defense budget and plan, which is the subject of this paper. As this study shows, the future force needed to defend U.S. national interests and to protect America is not only knowable, but achievable.”

The HF is right. America’s defense budget and total military budget should be determined by the needs of the US military itself, NOT how much other countries spend (America’s allies are dramatically underfunding their own militaries, so their budgets, and therefore global numbers, are irrelevant). Moreover, it’s not true that the US spends more on the military (or twice more on the military, as one ignorant AT commenter claimed here), than the rest of the world combined. According to the SIPRI, in 2009, America was responsible for only 43% of global military spending, and that is even if one accepts SIPRI’s vastly understated numbers for China and Russia.

Some ignorant people (including some ignorant AT commenters) have suggested deep percentage and billion dollar figure cuts of the total military budget and of the core defense budget. One ignorant AT commenter called for a 50% cut of the total military budget. That would mean cutting it to a paltry 336.5 bn. That would be unacceptable, treasonous, and wrong. The Afghan war and the Iraqi war should be ended, but the core defense budget must not be reduced by even one cent. Moreover, such percentage or dollar figure based calls for budget cuts are also wrong because they are arbitrary and not tied to any strategy nor to any force structure/capabilities plan. Those who have made such calls have not specified what missions should be ended, what units should be abolished, or what capabilities should be given up – but even if they had made such specific proposals, they would’ve been worrisome, disastrous, and unacceptable.

Some ignorant people have claimed that the core defense budget should be reduced because there are some wasteful expenses in it. For example, this ignorant AT commenter wrote:

“The defense budget needs to be cut. We spend far more than we need to spend. Do you know how much money is wasted in the military? I do. The wing I work at replaced all the cubicle furniture in the hq building 3 years ago for $250K. This year they replaced it all again in a different color for $300K. Nothing wrong with 3 year old furniture. Sure, its $300K at one wing, but multiply that by all the other wings, divisions, etc and you get a nice chunk of change. And did you know I can’t buy office supplies at the lowest price place I can find? Nope, I have to buy from the approved list. And the approved list is *always* more expensive than the lowest local source. For example, I have to pay $140 for a color toner cart for the HP 4700n printer in the office; but I can easily go online and get carts for $60. Again, take that number and factor in all the other supplies that units buy and you can see an enormous amount of waste. The defense budget – and government budgets in general – is too big. Cut it.”

But that commenter, like other folks demanding defense budget cuts, is wrong. Cutting the defense budget would only weaken the military. It would NOT reform the DOD. The only way to reform the DOD is to actually reform it – eliminate wasteful expenses, merge duplicative agencies/programs, and slim down DOD bureaucracies. The fact that there are some wasteful expenses in the defense budget is NO EXCUSE to reduce it.

Furthermore, the proponents of defense budget cuts are ignoring the fact that the defense budget has ALREADY been significantly cut, by $37 bn USD, from $550 bn in FY2010 (in FY2011 dollars) to $513.1 bn in FY2011. Yet, they pretend that this hasn’t happened and that defense spending enjoys “protected status” (which it has never enjoyed). And, as all credible experts recognize, this $513.1 bn FY2011 defense budget is inadequate. The Heritage Foundation’s review quoted here says that the FY2012 DOD budget request is also inadequate.

The US military, as testified by SECDEF Gates and JCS Chairman Admiral Mullen, is already suffering seriously under this inadequate FY2011 CR, which authorizes only $513.1 bn for defense, plus $160 bn for the GWOT (which has nothing to do with America’s defense).

There also those ignorant people who claim defense spending should be reduced in order to abolish “the American empire”. But America is not an empire. America is a Republic which helps other countries defend themselves. Some of these countries deserve to be defended; others do not.

There are also those ignorant people who claim that other than terrorist organizations, there is no one threatening the US and no one capable of attacking the US. They live in a fantasy world in which America has no enemies other than terrorist organizations.  They’re wrong. America has numerous, diverse, dangerous enemies, ranging from Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. America needs a military second-to-none, strong, universally-responsive, constantly ready, well funded. America cannot afford to cut defense spending.


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