Senator Harry Reid (D–NV) made it quite clear that he no longer views defense as a priority: “We are not going to be gamed by having the military programs funded at a much higher level than Head Start program, or the National Institute of Health. We’re not going to do that. We’re through.”
As Heritage’s James J. Carafano explains in the Washington Examiner, the Senate Majority Leader blundered when he compared defense funding to failed social initiatives. “More importantly, he should understand that defense is more than a social program.”
Heritage education expert Lindsey Burke explained that according to the Obama Administration’s own report, “Head Start also had little to no effect on the other socio-emotional, health, or parenting outcomes of children participating in the program.” Yet Head Start, which has cost taxpayers over $100 billion since its inception in 1994, with no significant results to show for it, is now being placed on par with the security of our nation.
Reid is one of many in the 113th Congress who seem to have forgotten the government’s constitutional duty to protect and defend its citizens. The idea that defense is just another program the government funds is a sure path to threatening national security. The defense sector provides real security in the air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace and supports the protection of economic interests for American citizens.
The U.S. military needs to maintain readiness, but it cannot do so without support from Congress. Our armed forces have already taken significant drawdowns. Defense spending totals less than one-fifth of the federal budget but has accounted for half of total deficit reduction efforts. Meanwhile, entitlement programs dwarf security spending yet continue to be ignored in reducing debt.
Congress needs to realize that defense funding is about more than just dollars and cents—it is a constitutional responsibility. In the world today, we cannot afford any more such faulty comparisons.
Sarah Wallace is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.