10 Reasons the US Should Not Cut Military Spending
Questions of commitment to the military have dogged the Obama presidency. Since he came to office he has been accused, on a regular basis, of showing disrespect to Americans in uniform. This appears to stem from a deep mistrust of the military (possibly because he lacks any relevant experience) viewing it not as an asset (unlike every other American President of the last 100 years) but as a potential problem. While Obama is not necessarily wrong in his assertion that a military response to a situation is not always the right thing to do, he takes his attitude even further, seeing little value in the military’s role in defending the nation as he does to their ability to project force when acting in an offensive capacity.
Because of this attitude it comes as no surprise that the Obama administration has put military spending as a low priority. Despite protestations to the contrary, an analysis of the facts and figures show frightening results. Military spending has dropped by 15% since 2011 and only 15.9% of the national budget is now allocated to defense compared with 20.1% in 2010. The Army is shrinking and the Navy is the smallest it has been in the last 100 years.
Now that the Obama administration is coming to a close, defense and military spending will find themselves at the forefront of the agenda, particularly as the Republican Party try to show that the Democrats cannot be trusted with the military and, by extension, American security.
Regardless of party politics we believe that military spending should be maintained, to do otherwise is nothing short of irresponsible. Here are our top 10 reasons why.
10. Big Government Is A More Appropriate Target For Cuts Than Defense
The story of the Obama government, even more that most Democrat administrations, has been one of big Government. Welfare spending has increased; Obamacare has created the worst of all possible worlds with regard to healthcare, increasing costs for many. Quite simply America is bankrupt. The middle classes are seeing an almost unprecedented decline in their net worth at the same time as they are being asked to pay for more and more government initiatives. The military are not exempt from this big government. There are several initiatives to which they are obligated which, if they were exempt, would create savings that could be ploughed back into the defense budget.
Examples include the ridiculous ‘energy mandate’ which requires our military to generate a whopping 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. While this is a laudable aim it is an illogical straightjacket. Oil prices are currently low making energy cheap and plentiful, renewables are expensive and, in some case, unreliable and they offer no strategic or tactical benefit, in short they do not help the US defend itself! The Davis-Bacon act requires the military to pay ‘prevailing rates’ to all contractors. Again a laudable aim but the rates set by the government are not pegged to actual local wages resulting in the Department of Defense paying over the odds. We should aim to treat people fairly while simultaneously ensuring that we get best value for money.
Surely it would make more sense to cut some of the outrageous programs of big government and ease some of the crazier obligations placed on the military than it would to cut defense spending. Sadly those in charge of our country seem to want to create a ‘client’ state.
9. We Do Not Want To Be Vulnerable To Another Pearl Harbor
1941 was a dark year for the world. The Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Italy seemed to be unstoppable. Most of Europe, China and South East Asia had fallen. Britain, with the help of its Empire and a few armies in exile such as the Free French and the Polish were all that stood against the triumph of evil. Although President Roosevelt wanted to ally the US to the fight against fascism he was unable to do so because of the profoundly isolationist stance most US citizens held following the First World War.
This head in the sand approach came to an end in a shocking way when in early December 1941 the Japanese launched a devastating surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet.
Much like Obama’s ridiculed ‘line in the sand’ which, when it was not backed by concrete action helped to contribute to the misery that exists in Syria today and which may overspill to harm the US, the isolationism of the 20s and 30s led the Axis powers to believe that they could get away with just about anything without risking a response from the US. The policy did not work then, it just made things worse as it meant that when America did join the fight, they faced enemies who were much more powerful than they would otherwise have been. It will not work today. We will have to fight our enemies at some point and we better be prepared when we do.
8. A Certain Minimum Level Of Spend Is Required To Ensure That America’s Defense Forces Are Responsive To Emerging Threats
The US does not want to be like France. We are not talking about the France of today (although a socialist state with a huge unemployment problem, runaway welfare spending, short working week, powerful, paralyzing unions, a racial problem, and vulnerability to terrorist attacks does sound frightening). No, we are talking about the French military of 1939. By the time the German tanks rolled over the border it constituted the third time France had been invaded (by the same country) since the 1870s. Anyone can make a mistake once but three times is unbelievable. The truth is that the French High Command learned the mistakes of their past too well. Each time they developed and trained their military to respond to the last threat they had faced instead of researching emerging technologies and ensuring that they were well placed to fight a modern war. When the Nazis unleashed Blitzkrieg the French fought bravely but they literally did not know what had hit them.
We should learn from the mistakes of the past and prepare for the wars of the future. While we need to ensure that we are able to defend against traditional threats it is vital that our military are able to evolve to fight new threats such as cyber war or nano attacks. If the budget is cut too lean and defense spending is reduced our soldiers will be left struggling to meet the immediate threat with not enough time to learn to protect against the new. The world is evolving, fast, and threats to our security are evolving with it. We need to ensure that our military are funded to evolve too.
7. Defense Spending Is Already Frighteningly Low
As we mentioned in the introduction, Department of Defense spending is now sitting at about 15.9% of the national budget and about 4% of GDP. Levels of spending have been that low in the past, sitting at about 3.5% in 2001 but spending was increased very rapidly post the horrific events of 9/11. While we might all wish to exist in the halcyon days of the 1990s when the Cold War was over and there were no other external threats to US security, today that has become no more than a pipe dream. We live in a very, very different world and we need to spend enough on our military to ensure that our citizens and territory are safe. Never, in the history of budget tracking, has the portion of defense spending been so low at a time when the US is under threat.
Given that the defense budget is at a historically low level compared to the threats the Department of Defense is expected to protect against there is very little they can do to cut their spending. Any cuts that are made will harm national security while doing very little to eliminate the deficit. By contrast runaway spending on entitlements has not been reigned back and is claimed by many to be responsible for the fiscal problems faced by the US.
6. The Military Has Been Targeted For Cuts By The Obama Administration And Cannot Take Anymore
From the early days of his administration Obama has targeted the military for cuts. We already explored, in the introduction, some of the shocking facts and figures behind the fiscal manifestations of Obama’s contempt for the military. It gets worse. In 2009 he identified the military as the target of 80% of all the cuts that he wanted to make. More recently cuts of 40,000 military and 17,000 support jobs took Congress by surprise and analysis shows that cuts to military spending are approaching $100,000 over the last 10 years.
The hypocrisy of this process is underscored by the fact that President Obama clearly understands the need for America’s allies to maintain their defense budgets as he recently took the time to lecture the UK on their spending priorities.