Adm. Mike Mullen on Debt and Defense Spending

The Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, made some important statements recently regarding our national debt and defense spending (hattip to Gordon Adams over at Capital Gains and Games).

There are four main budgetary points he brings up:

  • Our national debt is the largest national security threat our nation faces because we would have fewer available recourses for defense spending
  • Defense needs to be on the table for fiscal readjustment, with defense health care costs exploding in recent years, eating up a larger and larger portion of the defense budget
  • Defense spending has not been subject to significant scrutiny over the past several years
  • We have reduced defense spending in the past

Admiral Mullen is completely correct on all of these points. Our fiscal situation requires us to act to prevent a fiscal crisis, one that would negatively effect our economy and standard of living, but would also decrease our ability to protect ourselves. We need to include defense in any fiscal plan and make sure that the defense budget we have is one that we need and can afford.

ADM. MULLEN: "...[T]he reason I talk about the debt as the single biggest threat to our national security is – it’s basically not very complex math. I mean, I think the worst situation that we are in as a country fiscally, the likelihood of the resources made available for national security requirements continue to go down is very high. This is the third time I’ve been through this. We did this in the ’70s. We did it in the ’90s. And, actually, if you look at the data going back to the ’30s, our defense budget goes up and down, and it does so on a fairly regular basis. So certainly this is not unexpected, from my point of view. What I’ve seen, though – and I’ve been in the Pentagon most of the last decade – with the increasing defense budget, which is almost double, it hasn’t forced us to make the hard trades. It hasn’t forced us to prioritize. It hasn’t forced us to do the analysis.

And it hasn’t forced us to limit ourselves and get to a point in a very turbulent world of what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do. And so I see that on the horizon, and we need to be paying an awful lot of attention to that. I have said the defense needs to be on the table, and I’m comfortable with that. That said, I’m required to articulate our national security requirements and certainly advise the president and others, but particularly the president, about how we best can achieve them with the force that we have. And we find ourselves at a particularly difficult time for, let’s say, our modernization in our Air Force. I mean, we are running out of life in those assets that we bought in the ’80s under the Reagan administration, at a time where – I don’t have to tell you or this audience – where our national security requirements continue to challenge us."