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Strategic Defense Budget Cuts are Essential to America’s Long-term Security Interests

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“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves”. – Abraham Lincoln

Since the 2008 economic recession, the U.S. economy has struggled to reach healthy levels. Policy makers have since then accepted the need for budget cuts; however, deciding what programs will be reduced or completely eradicated has been an extremely politicized debate in itself. 2011 marked the year in which defense spending reached its peak with a whopping $718 billion in defense and international security costs. [1] In 2014 the base budget alone for the U.S. Department of Defense was approximately $527 billion. [2] According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Center, military spending has increased nearly 50% since the horrific attacks that transpired on September 11th, 2001. [3] Even after adjusting for inflation the U.S. Defense budget still remains higher than it was in both the Soviet Cold War era and the Vietnam War. Despite the military’s exorbitant price tag, the American public often maintains an optimistic perception, in the belief that freedom and democracy comes at a price. Some policymakers share this conviction and are extremely skeptical of defense budget cuts, while other members of Congress have asserted that defense budget cuts are essential to long-term national security interests.

In October, President Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Bill: the $612 billion dollar defense bill that sets fiscal policy for the Pentagon. Obama’s main objection was based mainly on the bill’s anticipation of off budget spending, which increases the defense budget without increasing domestic spending first. [4] As with previous defense bills, this legislation requires President Obama to keep Guantanamo Bay open, and prevents another round of essential base closings. It also prevents the Defense Department from exploring alternative fuel sources, which happens to be one of the department’s highest costs. [5] Furthermore, within the past decade the defense budget has had had meager reductions; meanwhile other domestic programs have undergone huge budget cuts that severely undermines the well being of the American people in the long term. Despite his veto, Congress and the President were still able to come to a recent agreement over the 2016 fiscal budget. [6] The settlement allows for increases in defense spending by $80 billion over a period of two years, [not including a $32 billion increase], “included in an emergency war fund”. [7] These increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, as well as savings from cuts in payments to doctors and other health care providers. [8] There are further anticipated savings from cutting numerous other government funded programs. [9] This unfortunately is not the first time that the defense budget has received increases in spending at the expense of America’s educational and health care sectors.

By continuing to make minimal investments in domestic priorities such as education, infrastructure, health care, and scientific developments, we as a nation ultimately degrade our economic strength and human capital —two of the very things that have contributed to American hegemonic stability. Furthermore, in modern times we are witnessing the militarized perception of national security revolutionize as non-traditional security threats emerge in the form of global warming, infrastructural insufficiencies, refugee crises, and educational deficits.

Moreover, many lawmakers argue that cutting the defense budget poses a major harm to U.S. security interests, but strategic cuts may in fact do quite the opposite. The Government Accountability Office (GOA) releases a list every year of high-risk government agencies in the United States; this program highlights agencies and government programs that are vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. [10] The 2015 list published by GOA indicated a number of these “high risk” areas in the DOD in comparison to many other governmental agencies. [11]

Admittedly, indiscriminate budget cuts can be extremely detrimental to national security interests. However, implementing tactical budget cuts to DOD’s massive bureaucracy can mitigate waste and fraud while allowing for savings to be redirected into fundamental programs that have been hit with budget cuts in the past. Strategic budget cuts require huge oversight and investigatory processes which may be somewhat costly. [12] Although GOA reports indicate that the misappropriation of government funding in DOD is significantly more costly in the long term than the price of implementing a management program geared toward investigating fraudulent agencies. In sum, these reformations in fiscal government policies will result in budget cuts that will prevent the wasteful spending that has damaged the US economy, while also creating necessary funds for investments in domestic programs that are critical to U.S. national security.

[1] See Justin T. Johnson, Assessing Common Arguments for Cutting National Security Spending: Informing Current and Future Budget Debates, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION, (last visited Nov. 11, 201) http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/11/assessing-common-arguments-for-cutting-national-security-spending-informing-current-and-future-budget-debates

 

[2] See Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2015/fy2015_Budget_Request_Overview_Book.pdf (last visited Nov. 13, 2015)

 

[3] See David Gold, Appendix 6E. US Military Expenditure and the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, STOCKHOLM INTERNATIONAL PEACE RESEARCH INSTITUTE, http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2002/06/06E (last visited Nov. 14, 2015)

 

[4] See Gregory Korte, Obama Vetoes Defense Bill in High-stakes Showdown Over Spending, USA TODAY, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/10/22/obama-veto-defense-authorization-bill-spending-fight/74371856/ (Oct. 22, 2015)

 

[5] Id.

 

[6] See Doug Mills, Congress Strikes Budget Deal with the President, NEW YORK TIMES,

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/27/us/politics/congress-and-white-house-near-deal-on-budget.html?_r=0 (Oct. 27, 2015)

 

[7] Id.

 

[8] Id.

 

[9] Id.

 

 

[10] See Reports & Testimonies: Additional Actions Needed To Improve Financial Management of Military Equipment, U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-695 (Jul. 26, 2010)

 

[11] Id.

 

[12] Id.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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