In a recent item on The Huffington Post, Bernard Finel argued that “analysts at the Heritage Foundation seem to want to politicize defense” policy by linking defense spending to four percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product. In Finel’s view, Heritage’s efforts are nothing more then a veiled effort to “creating a budget crisis that would justify slashing domestic entitlement programs.”
While the vast expansion of entitlement programs is of a concern to Heritage – and the necessary reforms to keep these programs affordable and sustainable is assuredly necessary – Heritage’s views on defense spending are drawn from a clear belief that out military capabilities must be funded at a level in conjunction with our national security strategy and global responsibilities. This strategy, in turn, is derived from the numerous and diverse collection of threats the Untied States faces.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that the federal government “provide for the common defense” of its people. Heritage does not advocate for only securing those citizens who subscribe to conservative principles and leave the rest unguarded. In fact, the only person making political arguments, using inflammatory language, and offering irrational and emotional points is Dr. Finel.
Further, if providing for the common defense were purely political and only “conservative,” then why would numerous nonpartisan leaders and organizations representing millions of Americans also support the position? A sample includes:
- The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, representing over 2.2 million personnel in uniform.
- The Military Coalition, a consortium of 33 nation¬ally prominent military and veterans organizations that represent more than 5.5 million members plus their families and survivors.
- Military Officers Association of America, an independent, nonprofit, politically nonpartisan organization that is also the nation’s largest and most influential association of military officers with 370,000 members from every branch of service – including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired, former officers, and their families.
- Aerospace Industries Association representing over 185 defense suppliers and thousands of Americans who work at these companies.
For Finel, Heritage’s effort to match capabilities to strategy in the Four Percent camapign is “profoundly dishonest.” The more honest approach, he believes, is for America to “get serious about national security.” by having “a nuanced conversation with the American people about national security and the American role in the world as well as the price we, as a nation, are willing to pay for it.”
Finel has attempted to do this in a report he calls “An Alternative to the ‘4 Percent Folly’.” Included amongst his list of threats to America’s security are “terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, failed and failing states, disease, and pandemics.” While mentioning terrorism numerous times, oddly enough, he fails to address the potential threat from the rapidly modernizing militaries of China and Russia, a nuclear-armed North Korea, or a potentially nuclear power in Iran. In the realm of strategy, denying these threats, or simply overlooking them, means not having to justify his proposed funding cuts for a modernized fleet of aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines, missile defense systems, and the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS). In Finel’s strategic paradigm, not recognizing these potential conventional challenges means not having to plan and invest in the capabilities to address them.
In the realm of strategy, denying these threats, or simply overlooking them, means not having to justify his proposed funding cuts for a modernized fleet of aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines, missile defense systems, and the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS). In Finel’s strategic paradigm, not recognizing these potential conventional challenges means not having to plan and invest in the capabilities to address them.
The conceptualization of a prudent defense policy, and one that is equally honest with the American people, means analyzing the geostrategic landscape as it is, and formulating strategy based on those realities. The Heritage Foundation’s Four Percent for Freedom solution seeks to set the necessary defense budget spending level to meet the full spectrum of potential threats through the acquisition of a vast array of conventional and unconventional capabilities.