When sitting down to write a family budget for the year, the typical first step is to list what the family will need and from there budget accordingly. So, too, is the theory for the yearly national budget. In the case of defense, however, President Obama has done things backwards. With his proposed $400 billion in spending cuts, the President has decided to reduce our nation’s defense without regard to the responsibilities and threats our military deals with on a daily basis.
In her recent article in Politico, Mackenzie Eaglen highlighted that by starving defense today, the President is weakening our nation’s security in the future.
President Obama, like his predecessors—including, anathema as it sounds to most Democrats, President Bush—has significantly expanded the roles and obligations of the U.S. Armed Forces, both militarily in situations like Libya and non-militarily with relief efforts such as those in Japan. Today, America is involved in three ongoing combat operations plus a myriad of relief and other efforts across the world. Our equipment and manpower are being taxed to the limit by use and stress, being worn down physically and emotionally.
It is in this context that President Obama has proposed his $400 billion in cuts. Even more significantly, the majority of these cuts are to come from acquisition of new equipment, which in fact constitutes only one-seventh of the defense budget. Programs such as the F-22, the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and the C-17 cargo plane represent the future of the American military, having been slated to replace aging equipment that in some cases was decades old or maintain fleets being worn down by constant use.
Yet each has been canceled, a victim of short-term defense cuts in the name of austerity. What’s more, each has already had billions of dollars in research invested into them. Their closure or cancellation represents the loss of these billions that have already been spent, as each will have to be replaced with a new program requiring additional billions in research.
Although President Obama has enlarged the responsibilities of our military, the simple fact, unspoken as it may yet be, is that these cuts will necessitate a reduction in the global role of the United States. We as a nation will simply be unable to ensure security and stability across the wide fronts that we have so long defended.
The choice between reducing America’s role in the world and hollowing out a wide array of responsibilities is an abysmal choice, with either option leading to a weakened United States, increasingly vulnerable to a plethora of threats that continue to grow.
Savings are necessary across the board, and defense is no exception. However, unless those savings are made wisely, with regard to the safety of the nation and our allies, we are sacrificing the future in the name of appearing tough.
Matthew Despres is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm