America was founded on the blood, sweat, and tears of ordinary, brave colonists who accomplished extraordinary things in waging a war for their independence and founding a new government. And in that great experiment that was the Constitution, the Framers made national defense a primary responsibility of the federal government.
However, in recent years, not many things have been more controversial than funding our military. As we are seeing today, defense spending is on the chopping block as the president and Congress seek ways to cut spending. Today, there is a misconception on how much we actually spend on the military. Right now, defense spending is barely above four percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and the Obama Administration is threatening to cut it even further. In the midst of three wars, and North Korea and Iran a continuing threat, America’s military cannot afford this dangerous level of cuts.
The Founders knew defense was important, which is why they made it a central part of the government’s. In his paper, “The Price of Liberty: Providing for the Common Defense,” Matthew Spalding explains:
It is the constitutional duty of the federal government to secure the country’s international borders and preserve and protect its territorial integrity, to strengthen and preserve its constitutional government, and to promote the long-term prosperity and well-being of its people. This means that the United States must be able, willing, and prepared at all times to defend itself, its people, and its institutions from conventional and unconventional threats to its vital interests, both at home and abroad.
To highlight the importance of adequately funding defense, The Heritage Foundation has produced a series of videos called “America at Risk” that showcase real-life stories of individuals on the front line and the challenges they face because of an under-funded, ill-equipped military. For example, the U.S. military is still flying the same B-52 bombers that rolled off factory lines in the 1960s. Imagine if you were sitting in your commercial flight and the pilot stated over the intercom that the plane has been in use since 1963. You probably wouldn’t feel like putting your life in its hands, but that is the risk our B-52 pilots assume every time they take off.
President Ronald Reagan understood the value of a properly funded military. In his Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery in 1986, Reagan remarked:
We owe them first a promise: That just as they did not forget their missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. And there are other promises. We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong.
The military is at the core of America, and Washington should ensure that it has the funding it needs to carry out its constitutional duty to protect America. It is fitting that, today, we set aside a time to remember them, thank them, and celebrate them. The brave men and women that serve our country do so every day without a need for recognition or reward. It is our privilege at The Heritage Foundation to salute the brave men and women of the military.