Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Event Recap: "National Security Implications of America's Debt and Bipartisan Plans to Address the Solution"

The second of four Strengthening of America—Our Children's Future forums was held today on national security and the national debt. The event featured two panels, the first discussing the national security threat excessive debt poses, while the second panel presented the possible solutions of Bowles Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin.  

Commenting on the sequester and future defense spending were Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Both Mullen and Gates talked at length about the threat that the growing federal debt posed to our security, with Mullen calling it the greatest national security threat to the United States. Mullen said that without a plan to make our debt sustainable, we will not be able to maintain its superiority militarily or economically. As Mullen said, "There will be a time that we try and kick the can down the road but the can will not budge."

Both were quick to point out that they thought that military spending should be on the table as part of a solution. However, neither thought that the sequester is the way to do it, with Gates calling the across the board cuts a product of "managerial cowardice." According to Gates, changes should be made slowly, methodically, and strategically to align military spending with both our fiscal capabilities and our defense needs.

The second panel featured the testimonies of co-chairs of the Simpson-Bowles and Domenici-Rivlin plans. Senator Al Simpson (R-WY) and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, both talked about the need to address military spending—noting that the United States spends more on its military than the next 15 countries combined. In addition, they said that a comprehensive plan should also restrain entitlement spending and reform the tax code to raise more revenue.

Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former CBO Director Alice Rivlin, the co-chairs of the Debt Reduction Task Force, talked about their plan to address the budget deficit. Domenici talked about the need to control health care costs, the greatest driver of future debt growth. Rivlin discussed the political ramifications of these plans, saying that they were proof that both parties work together especially considering the many members of Congress who voted for the Simpson-Bowles plan. "The arithmetic dictates everything," said Rivlin.

That may be so, but we need Congress and the President to commit to making a sustainable budget a reality.

The event was the second of a four "Strengthening of America–Our Children's Future" forums of former senators and representatives that are seeking to raise awareness of our growing and unsustainable debt. Video of today's event can be found here and information about the series can be found here.

Photo Credit: C-SPAN