The defense commitments in Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) budget proposal, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise,” are a step in the right direction. The budget makes a down payment on the defense the United States needs, moving toward rebuilding a defense posture that has been strained by 10 years of war.
The proposal is consistent with the principle that national defense is the federal government’s most important priority, whereas President Obama’s budget will make defense the lowest priority by later this decade. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Administration is cutting back on defense as its primary means for slowing the growth of federal spending. Defense, accounting for less than 20 percent of the federal budget, will absorb more than 50 percent of the planned reductions in federal spending.
Ryan is right when he states that strategic considerations should drive defense investments, not the other way around, whereas the Obama Administration’s January defense guidance was driven by the numbers established in the spending caps of the Budget Control Act. According to the description of Ryan’s plan, it will restore to the defense budget roughly half of the reductions already identified by the Obama Administration over the next 10 years.
The proposal will put off the most immediate budget threat to the nation’s security, which is the application of the Budget Control Act’s sequestration provision for defense—while President Obama threatens to veto legislation that takes this step, despite the fact that even his own Secretary of Defense has stated that sequestration will be “devastating” to the military. The proposal also takes strong steps to address the most important long-term budget threat to the nation’s security: the explosive growth in entitlement spending and the dramatic increase in the debt and interest payments that go with it.
Chairman Ryan’s proposal puts defense funding on a different trajectory from the Obama budget. Rather than gutting defense, Ryan makes it a priority. While the Ryan budget does not fully ensure that, in the future, the U.S. can meet all its traditional security commitments, it puts preserving that posture within reach. It also sends the right message to America’s adversaries: We will not let the military become a hollow force.
Ryan’s budget helps make the case for embracing even bolder steps that would allow the nation to invest in rebuilding our armed forces so that they are ready for the challenges of protecting us. The Heritage Saving the American Dream plan would allow the U.S. government to fully provide for the common defense. It reduces the federal government so that it is closer to its proper size and focused on performing its core responsibilities; transforms entitlement programs to better meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s seniors, while making the programs affordable; and holds down taxes while reforming America’s needlessly complex, burdensome, and highly unfair tax system.