Only politicians determined to spend $1 billion a day to “stimulate” the economy could balk at committing tens of millions less than that to bolster our national defense.

So it was good news this evening when the Senate Armed Services Committee added funds to buy seven more F-22 fighters and a backup engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, as Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told Bloomberg.

Investing  previously-committed billions next year to protect America had appeared to be too much to ask  either the Obama administration or  liberals in Congress. They’re just not that into a strong defense as much as putting taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars so government can take over businesses, overreact to global warming, control our health care and — all together now — “create or save” jobs (green or otherwise).

President Obama’s defense budget for fiscal 2010 falls short of “the basic building blocks” required to maintain, strengthen and modernize our core defense program, warns Heritage defense expert Baker Spring. As our downloadable chart shows, the White House’s own numbers anticipate reducing military spending almost to 2001 levels within five years, measured as a percentage of U.S. economic output. It would fall to pre-9/11 levels within 10 years.

In a detailed critique, Spring writes:

The U.S. needs to fund defense programs that protect Americans and friends and allies against ongoing threats from hostile states such as Iran and North Korea, as well as potential threats such as the one posed by a hostile China.”

The Senate panel today added $1.75 billion for the extra F-22s (for a total of 194) and $440 million for the backup engine for the F-35 fighter, Bloomberg reported. The Pentagon had opposed both proposals, and the administration vowed to veto legislation including them.

Since the Kennedy administration, annual defense spending has averaged 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).  The Obama plan advocated by Defense Secretary Robert Gates allocates $562.8 billion to core defense, about 3.8 percent of GDP. Funding then is slated to increase by $10 billion a year over four years — but Spring notes that means no real growth after inflation. “As a result, the core defense budget will fall to less than 3.3 percent of GDP in 2014.”

Mackenzie Eaglen, another Heritage defense expert, runs down the  merits and  flaws of  action on the bill by the House  Armed Services Committee here, as that panel’s counterparts in the Senate continued their markup.  Failure to restore  $1.2 billion in missile defense cuts is a major flaw, Eaglen and researcher Eric Sayers write.

House Republicans, led by Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), are readying a motion to restore the deleted missile defense  components and other “critical equipment,” including 250 MRAP armored vehicles, 800 Humvees, 800 FMTV trucks, 35 Stryker vehicles, four Super Hercules transport planes and two Blackhawk helicopters. Source of funds: $5.5 billion in “stimulus” additions to the Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup fund.

Gates’ determination to cancel weapons programs does not make him a reformer, Eaglen writes in an op-ed written with Lexington Institute senior fellow Rebecca Grant.

The Pentagon, as Spring argues, should emphasize “developing and deploying the next generation of weapons and equipment that U.S. forces will need to fight effectively.” Doing what’s possible to protect America from missile attack, rather than cutting new phases of that program, must be part of the focus, he argues.

It’s a good time for Americans to consider: Should the defense of our freedom be sacrificed to liberal lawmakers’ pet causes and to runaway automatic spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — not to mention a government-run health care program?

Spring argues:

Growth in entitlement spending, not defense spending, created the fiscal crisis facing the government. Spending 4 percent of GDP on defense will not jeopardize either the health of the economy or the prosperity of the American people.”