The Case for Defense Cuts

With much of Washington talking about how to address our fiscal situation, more specific budget areas are coming into focus. One area that some are holding as sacrosanct from any spending cuts is the defense budget. We believe that any deficit reduction plan should look at all areas of the budget, including defense, and were encouraged by two influential articles in the Washington Post and the USA Today giving strong arguments as well.

Gordon Adams and Matthew Leatherman wrote in this weekend's Washington Post about "Five Myths of Defense Spending". They make note that our current defense budget is not related to security needs nor is there a linear relationship between defense spending and American safety. Also of particular note is how large our current defense budget is, with it being larger in inflation adjusted dollars than at any point since World War II.

The five myths the authors wish to expose are:

  1. Defense Spending is dictated by threats we face.
  2. The larger the Pentagon's budget, the safer we are.
  3. Republicans like defense spending; Democrats don't.
  4. Today's levels of military pay and benefits are necessary.
  5. Gates's cuts are enough.

Addressing the question of why defense spending should not be left out of any fiscal consolidation plan, Micheal O'Hanlon of USA Today writes:

"The case for selective defense reductions is in fact strong — but not, as many defense critics argue, due to Pentagon waste or imperial overreach. Cutting defense will in fact add modest risk to our short-term security. But to shore up the economic foundations of our long-term security, such cuts deserve serious consideration for the simple reason that the alternatives are worse... [A] failure to avert the oncoming fiscal calamity could cripple the U.S. economically over time. With that, the people will be loath to provide the political underpinning for the global economic and military engagement that has been at the heart of America's defense strategy since World War II. Thus, we might need to take some prudent strategic risks now to protect our fundamental strength over the longer term. To dismiss careful defense budget cutbacks categorically is false hawkishness, for it fails to address the economic challenge posed to the long-term foundations of U.S. national power."

It is definitely worth taking a look at these two articles.