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.
5. Many US Jobs Depend On Maintaining The Military Budget
The Department of Defense is a major employer in the US. Not only do the jobs of soldiers, sailors and airmen depend on the Department but those of many contractors. The Department of Defense claims to be responsible for the employment of over 1.3 million American service personnel on active duty, 742,000 civilians and 826,000 National Guard and Reservist personnel making it the largest employer in the US. Cuts to the military budget will put the livelihoods of all these people at risk.
It is not only a question of direct employment. The existence of military bases is often a boon to a local economy as the bases ensure a supply of high level specialists who will drive expenditure in the local economy, drive construction and see improvements in the commercial, retail and hospitality offer. Prior to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closing Plan Maryland estimated that their military presence generated an additional $16 billion within the state.
While the presence of a base can be beneficial to a local area the closing of a base can be catastrophic, seeing a reduction in the availability of jobs and investment in the local economy both by the government and by individuals.
The impact of the cuts that have already been proposed has totaled over one million jobs across the country in both the military in private sectors. This has already had an impact on GDP and further cuts would be nothing short of catastrophic. Many of these job losses have been in the manufacturing industry including small and medium businesses which will further impact on the ability of the US economy to compete globally, particularly with competitors such as India and China where labor is cheap.
4. Cuts To The Military Budget Will Not Result In Long Term Savings
Cutting the military is, to be brutally honest, an idiotic thing to do. Previous administrations have tried it only to find that the short term savings have led to long term pain.
After the end of the First World War the prevailing tide of isolationism led to a decrease in military spending and capability. Protected by the vast oceans of the Pacific and Atlantic it was thought that there was no need to spend money on a force that would never be used. Sadly this safety was no more than an illusion that was cruelly shattered when the Japanese launched a deadly attack on Pearl Harbor (see above). The US was unable to respond to the external threat as quickly and as comprehensively as it should have done because it had to spend time ramping up spending and capability. This pattern of spending reductions resulting in huge and rapid investment was to repeat itself during Korea, Vietnam, the 80s and 9/11.
It is important to remember that the rest of the world does not play by our rules, however much we might want them to. It may seem tempting to reduce military expenditure during times of peace but that is precisely when it is needed in order to ensure that we are not seen as an easy target. Saving money now only guarantees that we will need to spend more in the future. It is even more idiotic to decrease spending when we as a nation are vulnerable to attack as we are now.
3. Defense Is The Core Responsibility Of The Federal Government
No matter how much any administration may wish to reduce its defense budget the fact remains that defense is one of the main responsibilities of the federal government.
When the Founding Fathers came together to create the United States they reserved a huge number of responsibilities and prerogatives to the States and even to the people themselves. This was confirmed and codified in 1791 by the Tenth Amendment. Defense, however was specifically identified as one of the core responsibilities of the Federal Government in a number of ways. The Preamble states ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…’. This statement of intent is then expanded upon. Nine of the 17 prerogatives of Congress listed in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution deal with military obligations while Article II establishes the President as the Commander In Chief. In Article IV section 4 of the Constitution the Federal Government is explicitly obligated to protect the States of the Union from invasion while
In other words while the Federal Government may do certain things it absolutely MUST ensure that it maintains responsibility for defense. There is then, no constitutional support for reducing spending on defense at the expense of other activities not specifically required by the Constitution and it appears, therefore, somewhat ironic that there are calls to protect spending on entitlements and welfare while subjecting the defense budget to relentless cuts. The Founding Fathers were wise men who understood that the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is only worth something when it can be protected from those who would seek to destroy it.
2. The World Today Is A Very Dangerous Place
The 20th Century was undoubtedly one of turmoil and conflict which saw every generation of Americans exposed to brutal conflicts from the First World War to Vietnam. Not only that but the Cold War exposed all Americans, at home or abroad, military or civilian to the potential for annihilation through nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union. It was only truly in the last decade of the Century that we saw a light at the end of the Tunnel, the Cold War and proxy engagements at an end it looked as though the world might experience a period of peace. Nevertheless action in Iraq and Kuwait, Somalia and the Balkans amongst others showed that there was no room for complacency and gave an indicator of the turmoil to come.
The horrendous events of 9/11 brought home the need for the US to be prepared to meet and defeat novel forms of attacks against its citizens and allies. Engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan have been prolonged and expensive but any hopes that drawdowns there have seen an end to the dangers faced by the US have been dashed by the destabilization of the Middle East by the Arab Spring and the resultant rise of the Islamic State/DAESH. Meanwhile an increasingly aggressive Russian Bear is flexing its muscles, annexing the Crimea, part of the independent Ukraine, and casting covetous glances at our NATO Allies, the Baltic States. China is starting to experiment with the range of its power and influence, entering territorial disputes with the Philippines, North Korea is testing missiles and we have practically gifted Iran permission to destabilize the global economy by flooding the oil markets and further inflame tensions in the Middle East by developing its nuclear capability.
Our allies may be our friends but they rely on us far more than we could ever rely on them. Even the British, with their undoubtedly excellent professional army is only able to field a fraction or our men and materiel.
Against such a background it would be nothing short of a suicidal folly to cut our spending on defense.
1. America’s Security At Home And Abroad Is Guaranteed By A Strong Military
We are sure that you have heard the saying ‘A Good Defense Is A Good Offence’ an idiom which is based on the writings of masters as diverse as Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, George Washington and Mao Zedong proving that it applies to all times and places.
It is as true to the US today as it has ever been. A strong military and defense capability ensures a strong and safe America. Without it those who would wish America harm will be emboldened to go further, faster than they would otherwise do. Russia, after years in the doldrums, is finding its voice and strength in the international sphere once again. China is flexing its trade muscles and is spending billions on its military. Both these countries (and others) have shown how little they care for American rhetoric and diplomacy. The only way to prove that we mean business is to invest, and invest strongly, in our military. We do not need to go on the offensive on the slightest whim, we can be more circumspect, but our potential allies have to know that America is dangerous to attack
This article has been harsh on the Obama administration and we do believe that it has treated the military shamefully but the earlier Republican administrations must also share some of the blame, overcommitting our military and expecting more for less.
A world without a strong American military is not a world at peace where hippies of all nations live together in harmony and sing cum-by-yah. A world without a strong American military is a world where American citizens (and the citizens of our allies) will be notably less safe and our national security will be vulnerable to surprise attacks. It is a world where, in the event that things do not go as we hope (and they won’t, history has proved that good things always go to hell in the end) we will have to spend far more bringing our military up to operational readiness than we ever would have had to spend maintaining the status quo. During that time countless lives, properties and businesses will, inevitably, be at risk.
We hope that we have convinced you of the need at least to maintain the status quo if not extend and expand military spending. This does not mean that the Department of Defense should be exempt from efficiency savings. Such exercises are healthy and necessary but the monies saved should be plowed back into the Defense budget and not redistributed elsewhere.
A strong military guarantees a strong, independent and safe America, do not be hoodwinked into putting that at risk.