Pentagon (Photo by Newscom)

The country is drowning in red ink. A revolt against rising debt is unleashing a grass roots movement to curb spending. Conservatives all across America are deeply concerned that unless we can get spending under control, we will forever lose our country.

This is hardly an environment conducive to making the case for more defense spending. To make matters worse the Department of Defense is in the hands of an administration that conservatives do not trust. It’s understandable that they would not want to appear to give a “blank check” to the very administration that is busting the budget with out of control domestic spending.

But here’s the problem. The Obama administration is cutting defense projects and programs that we need, and doing so by using disingenuous arguments of frugality intended to put conservatives on the defensive. But conservatives should not be on the defensive. National defense is the one area of government that conservatives believe the federal government has a constitutional responsibility to do right. So much of Obama’s spending is unnecessary and of dubious constitutionality. That is not the case in spending on national defense.

The bottom line is that the Obama administration plans defense budget cuts that will weaken future necessary modernization and other programs. Under their plans, there is no way the U.S. can build the weapons and systems necessary to keep America safe in the coming decades. There are simply not enough “savings” in cutting “waste, fraud and abuse” in Obama’s defense budget to make up for his cuts in modernization and other programs.

The right question for conservatives is not how much the Pentagon’s budget should be cut in order to contribute to overall budget reductions, but which programs, projects and personnel are needed to defend the country. After we’ve done that, we can then cost it out to include efficiencies. Any savings that can be achieved in reforming logistics or cutting personnel and benefits should be used to help fund the modernization programs and end strength needed to defend the country in the future.

Anything less will be an arbitrary budget exercise with no grounding in reality. Worse, it would be an excuse to jettison the “peace through strength” model of national defense bequeathed to us by Ronald Reagan.