Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon (R–CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke last week at the Reagan Library on national security and the declining defense budget. He expressed his concerns and strategies to address the current state of our armed forces, specifically the effects that budget cuts will have on U.S. troops.

McKeon painted a clear picture of the significance of the proposed troop reduction: “Instead of coming home to ticker tapes, these brave men and women will come home to pink slips. Instead of marching in victory parades, they will stand in unemployment lines. That is shameful.” The announced reduction of over 100,000 military personnel means that our veterans will come home to find that the nation that asked them to sacrifice their lives for its defense is no longer interested in their services. These cuts will affect not just the men and women in uniform but everyone associated with them, from families to local communities.

McKeon explained that defense should not be short-changed in order to create more room for domestic spending. He further pointed out that the national security budget has been cut down to the bone, far past the fat and the muscle, and has contributed mightily to deficit reduction. Defense spending represents less than 20 percent of the federal budget but has been responsible for more than half the spending cuts—an equation that does not correspond to the priorities of the federal government as envisioned by our Founders.

McKeon outlined a three-pillared philosophy to address the current state of our military: (1) resolve sequestration, (2) reverse massive defense cuts, and (3) restore and rebuild America’s military.

These are sound and prudent steps that will help ensure that the U.S. Armed Forces can adequately protect America.

Fred Ferreira is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: