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Will Cutting the Fiscal Fat Leave Us Defenseless?

By Jeff Dutton
On January 25, 2011

In the face of unprecedented spending and a national debt approaching $15 trillion dollars, the federal government is in desperate need of a budget reduction.  The newly elected Republican House has vowed to reduce spending in all areas of government including, surprisingly, the defense budget.

This is surprising because in past times, defense spending has been a sacred cow for the Republican Party.  This is also true of the Democratic Party, which has lived in fear of the campaign attack that it is weak on defense.  Anticipating mandated budget cuts from Congress in the near future, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced to Congress his plan to cut $78 billion from the defense budget over the next 5 years.

While many have viewed this as an attempt by the Secretary to preempt any mandated cuts from Congress, the White House has already requested that the Secretary find ways to cut $78 billion more.  This has led to cries on the right end of the political spectrum that our security and ability to exercise an assertive foreign policy is being dangerously compromised.       

I'm by no means a foreign policy or defense expert, but when considering that the United States defense budget is larger than the rest of the world's defense budgets combined, I have a hard time believing that cutting $80-$160 billion dollars out of a budget that for 2011 totals $724.6 billion, will spell doom and destruction for this nation.  The Chinese are not going to invade California because of these cuts, trust me on this one.  As an advocate of Theodore Roosevelt's "speak softly, and carry a big stick" foreign policy philosophy, I agree that a strong national defense is important.  Yet, the proposed cuts will not turn our big stick into a twig over the next five years.    

Nor are these cuts an attempt by the Obama administration to redirect money to a welfare state and diminish the United States' strategic role in the world as some have suggested.  I would argue this based on the fact that the bipartisan panel on deficit reduction recommended cutting $100 billion from the defense budget over the next five years.  Not to mention that numerous Republicans have called for and support defense budget cuts to some degree or another.  I can assure you these individuals do not want to redirect money to a welfare state nor reduce the United States' strategic role in the world.    

Considering the coming onslaught of Baby Boomer retirements and a tax base being constantly eroded by the loss of good paying jobs being outsourced overseas, these cuts are perfectly reasonable in the face of unprecedented levels of national debt.  A debt, I  should remind you, which will be left to our generation to pay as our parents begin to retire in droves.  Do not be mistaken, very serious threats to the security of the United States and its citizens are existent in the world, ranging from terrorism to the hostile regimes of Iran and North Korea, and defense against these threats are indeed of the utmost importance to our nation.  Let us hope that any and all cuts are made wisely with the nation's security constantly in mind, not lucrative contracts or constituent jobs in a politician's home district.


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