“It’s a ship without sailors. It’s a brigade without bullets. It’s an air wing without enough trained pilots. It’s a paper tiger,” said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta about the effects of the looming sequestration, which will cut more than half a trillion dollars from the defense budget over the next 10 years.
The notion that America’s military power could potentially be reduced to that of a “paper tiger” is especially frightening. Not only is the U.S. military still engaged in Afghanistan, but the recent deadly attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as well as the violent anti-American protests at several U.S. embassies, should remind us that we are living in an unsafe world during highly uncertain times—times during which questioning the allocation of at least 4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) on defense spending, as Ruth Marcus cites in her Washington Post op-ed, seem ludicrous.
The Department of Defense, along with every other federal agency, should strive to find efficiencies. But less than a fifth of U.S. spending is on defense, yet it has already accounted for more than half of deficit reduction efforts. The Constitution states that the government must provide for the common defense. Part of upholding that promise is allocating enough money to national security to keep our nation safe.
As The Heritage Foundation projects, allotting approximately 4 percent of the nation’s GDP for defense spending is a good benchmark to ensure that the U.S. military has the capabilities it needs. Maintaining a steady, robust defense budget would continue to provide for military modernization and superiority.
Conversely, cutting defense spending even more would debilitate our military—not to mention contribute to weakening our national defense by crippling the industrial base that supports a strong military. Defense cuts could eliminate 1 million jobs in both the military and private sectors, which would drain much of the technical and practical knowledge the military needs in vital industries such as aerospace and shipbuilding.
Instead of haphazardly cutting defense to attempt to lower the debt, the government needs to address the biggest portion of federal spending: entitlement programs. As Heritage’s Saving the American Dream plan states, “Congress must take tough action on discretionary programs and smaller entitlement programs” by not only eradicating inefficient programs but also making sure that entitlement programs focus on those really in need. By reducing the excessive spending on entitlement and discretionary programs and designating at least 4 percent of GDP for defense, the country would be both safer and more fiscally sound.
To ensure the endurance of our dynamic military, Congress needs to act to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities “to raise and support Armies” and “to provide and maintain a Navy,” by stopping sequestration. Reducing defense spending to less than 4 percent of GDP in such uncertain times is dangerous to both national security and stability around the globe.
The cost of readiness is a small price to pay for the safety of each American citizen and the championing of liberty, freedom, and democracy throughout the world.
Bianca Falcone 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.