The roaring debate over the budget has flooded Congress with proposals and counter-proposals aimed at lessening the gaping hole between federal revenues and expenses. Almost every part of the federal budget, including defense, has been targeted under various plans. But cutting defense spending doesn’t fix the problem. It doesn’t even come close.

According to Heritage Foundation Vice President Kim Holmes, Congress could eliminate the entire Department of Defense budget and still have crushing debt in the future. The greatest slice of the federal budget goes to cover Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and that slice will only get bigger as baby boomers retire. We spend twice as much on those programs than we do on defense. Effective efforts at restoring fiscal health should begin by reforming social entitlements.

Of course, defense spending is a sizeable part of the remaining budget. In a recent publication, Heritage expert Mackenzie Eaglen identifies specific programs that demand scrutiny and if warranted, the judicious use of the budget scalpel. Any superfluous, wasteful, or inefficient program should be cut. But these “savings” should immediately be reinvested into programs that increase the security of our troops, keep the United States military at the top of its game, and safeguard our country.

It comes down to this: Although cuts to the federal budget are desperately needed to tackle out-of-control spending, slashing defense won’t solve the problem. Nor is it appropriate, given the enormous responsibilities the United States asks of its military and intelligence agencies.

Providing for the “common defense” is no luxury. It is the first obligation of the federal government, according to the Constitution. Shortchanging defense is sacrificing security.

Scott Nason is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: