The opponents of a strong defense have not surrendered. They continue to rabidly, fanatically, feverishly speak out against it and to undermine it any way they can, including by writing ridiculous articles full of errors about the subject (like the utterly corrupt Congressman Barney Frank, one of the architects of the current economic crisis, has done in the Huffington Post) and voting against it (like Ron Paul has done with the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012, along with dozens of Democrats, including Barney Frank, but not Nancy Pelosi, who voted “aye”). The MSNBC, the NYT, the WaPo, the HuffPo, the Salon, the Nation, the New Republic, the Democrats, and liberal writers like Anurag “Andy” Maheshwari, incessantly argue against defense spending.
Ron Paul and his Dem pals, including Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi, have also voted to cut the Ground-Based Interceptor program by $100 mn. Why? Because they don’t want America to be defended. They don’t want to balance the budget, either. Barney Frank has already publicly said on at least one occassion that he wants to redirect military spending towards entitlements and other social programs, not to deficit reduction. For him, Ron Paul, as a staunch opponent of a strong defense, is merely a useful idiot.
All opponents of a strong defense are wrong on every count, however. Defense spending should NOT be cut; America is not militarily uncontested; the world is NOT safe; America DOES have real enemies who truly threaten it; defense is a Constitutional DUTY of the federal government while entitlements and a social safety net are not; defense spending is not “just another kind of federal spending”; and it is not necessary to cut defense spending to balance the budget.
Fortunately, cooler heads are warning against defense cuts. The Secretary of Defense has repeatedly warned during the last month that only a strong military, properly funded, trained, and equipped, can defend America, and that defense spending, which constitutes less than 15% of the total federal budget and a paltry 3.50% of GDP, is not to blame for America’s fiscal woes. Congressman Allen West doesn’t think defense spending should be cut; he says it should be increased. HASC Chairman Buck McKeon has promised he won’t allow further defense cuts “without a fight”. The Wall Street Journal has recently published an article listing some reasons why the defense budget shouldn’t be cut. The Heritage Foundation has been repeatedly warning the federal government against defense cuts.
The Heritage Foundation’s Ernest Istook has written a report titled “The Constitutional Charge to defend America”, an analysis of the US Constitution’s provisions related to defense. It says that while the Constitution does not mention most kinds of federal agencies, policies, and spending, it does mention defense, does command the federal government to provide for the common defense, and 6 of the 17 prerogatives of the Congress listed in Art. I, Sec. 8 of the Constitution (i.e. more than 33%) pertain to defense: to provide for the common defense and the general welfare of the US, to raise and support Armies, to provide and maintain a Navy, to regulate the military, to punish piracies, to quell insurrections, and to organize and discipline the militia.
“National defense receives unique and elevated emphasis under the Constitution. It is not “just” another duty of the federal government. Most government spending goes to purposes not mentioned in the Constitution, but defense receives not only explicit constitutional mentions but also more emphasis than any other purpose of government.
A proper debate about the size of the federal government should take into account the U.S. military’s unique and well-deserved emphasis within the Constitution. Yet defense needs are being subjugated to other spending that lacks an explicit foundation in the Constitution.
What the Constitution Says
Public understanding of accountability for America’s defense often revolves around media focus on the President’s role as commander in chief. But although the President’s role is clearly described, his military obligation is far less than the detailed role that the Constitution grants to Congress to fund and oversee national defense, set forth in more expansive and more explicit terms.
The President’s entire defense role is confined to Article 2, Section 2:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.But 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.””
Istook also reminded people that the Heritage Foundation has done a detailed study of how many troopers, ships, planes, vehicles, and missiles the US military needs, and found that the current military and the Obama Administration’s plans for the future military and defense budgets are inadequate. It is noteworthy that, in parallel, the HF has drafted a proposal of a budget that would be balanced without cutting even one cent from defense spending, although it would, however, eliminate tons of wasteful DOD spending and reinvest the resulting savings in the DOD.
Istook, a former 7-term Congressman who served on the National Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, furthermore wrote:
“Policymakers should avoid the temptation to design America’s national security to meet an arbitrary budget and instead find the budget to meet its security needs. This process is known as defining the requisite “force structure,” which is done every four years by the Pentagon in its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The most recent version was compiled in 2010 but was tainted by an effort to align it with the Obama Administration’s philosophy more than with military security needs. (…) The threat is not that the federal government will spend too much on defense but too little on defense while too much on everything else.”
The HF’s Jim Talent, for his part, has analyzed the US military’s current weaknesses, shortcomings, and needs, and has warned that:
“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.”
A recent blogpost by the HF’s Mike Brownfield which cites Talent further warns:
“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. (…) 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.”
The media have been reporting many times during the last several months about various proposals to cut defense spending but also, in some cases, about why this would be dangerous. I’ve mentioned the WSJ, which is considered a conservative newspaper, but even the liberal Newsweek magazine has admitted that proposals to cut the defense budget are “risky”. And unlike President Obama, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen, I believe that as far as defense is concerned, risk is unacceptable and unaffordable and must be minimized, not “managed”. “Managing risk” is a mere Beltway euphemism for gutting the military and accepting the consequences.
The Washington Times newspaper, meanwhile, has reported extensively on the Chinese and Russian military threats, including their developments of stealthy 5th generation fighterplanes, SAMs, and other access-denial weapons is a current threat to the US, which will only grow worse later, and that the US needs to counter this threat – and admitted that the USIC has been consistently UNDERESTIMATING these threats:
“Two senior officers in charge of U.S. air power voiced increasing worries that U.S. forces will not be prepared for a future conflict with China, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee on Tuesday.
Air ForceLt. Gen. Herbert J. Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for operations, said China’s rollout earlier this year of a new J-20 stealth fighter, which has made two or three test flights, is very troubling, along with another joint Russian-Indian stealth jet.
Both aircraft could be sold to Iran and affect a future U.S. intervention there against Tehran’s nuclear program. “Those are discouraging in that they rolled out in a time that we thought there was maybe a little bit more time, although we weren’t sure of that,” Gen. Carlisle said. The three-star general’s comments echoed earlier comments by Navy Vice Adm. David J. Dorsett, a senior intelligence official, who said of the J-20 in January that “we have been pretty consistent in underestimating the delivery of Chinese technology and weapons systems.”
U.S. military fighters will remain a pace ahead technologically of both the Chinese and Russian stealth jets. But if there are further F-35 delays, “then that pacing is in jeopardy,” Gen. Carlisle said. In unusually candid comments on China’s growing military power, Gen. Carlisle said: “You need only look across the Pacific and see what [China] is doing, not just their air force capability, but their surface-to-air [missile] capability, their ballistic missile capability, their anti-ship ballistic missiles,” and new missiles that can reach U.S. bases in Guam and Japan. “All of those things are incredibly disturbing to us for the future,” Gen. Carlisle said. “And again, … we not only have to be able to defeat those, we have to hold those targets at risk, and that’s where these fifth-generation aircraft come in.””
Yet, Obama STILL wants to cut defense spending by a whopping $400 billion, even though it already constitutes less than 15% of the entire federal budget and a microscopic 3.5% of America’s GDP, while Barney Frank, Ron Wyden, Ron Paul, and Walter B. Jones routinely call for even deeper cuts. That is unacceptable. Defense spending must not be cut by even one dime. It should be increased to no less than $553.1 bn per year in CY2011 dollars and maintained at that annual level at least. The annual shipbuilding budget should be increased by no less than $10.98 bn, to almost $26 bn, and the USN must have no fewer than 350 ships. At the same time, the Iraqi, Afghan, and Libyan war should be ended.
Defense cuts would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. They must not be pursued.