Our government is in a fiscal crisis. As debt skyrockets, the spending decisions before us in the coming months and years will have a deep impact on the future of our nation. Lawmakers and the American public must debate the merits and faults of each category of spending. But, as we work to reverse the tide of deficit spending, I urge that we exercise great caution before anyone takes a scalpel to the defense budget.

Adequate funding is critical for our military, intelligence, and security agencies to fulfill their Constitutional duty to provide for the common defense. This is not a partisan issue and must not be a political one either. While the numbers are negotiable, and specific programs should be fully vetted, the underlying responsibility is undeniable. Defense funding deserves a high place in the priorities of this, and any, Congress.

Defense spending is not the culprit when it comes to our nation’s debt, like some want you to believe. According to research from the Heritage Foundation, defense spending, as a percentage of GDP, is below its historical average. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, defense spending was at three percent. Ten years later it is only at five percent. Since 1965, the average has been 5.3 percent. To put this in perspective, defense spending during the Vietnam War peaked near ten percent, and it was around six percent for most of the 1980s. Blaming our budgetary woes on the military is reckless and misinformed.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently said, “Given America’s difficult economic circumstances and parlous fiscal condition, military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny.” I applaud Secretary Gates for his leadership on this, and many fronts. All Cabinet heads should be as introspective with their fiscal scrutiny. Still, while I encourage cost savings within the Department of Defense, I believe any money saved therein should stay within DoD to ensure America’s ability to project power, protect our interests abroad and keep our homeland safe. Consider the recent brave mission of a Navy SEAL team, under CIA direction, that took out the world’s most wanted terrorist. We were able to raid Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan because we have the finest intelligence agencies and the best-trained warriors in the world. These global capabilities require significant and sustained investments.

All the liberties enjoyed by the citizens of a nation depend on, and stem from, the security of that nation. We are a nation at war, pitted against terrorists who are bent on destroying our nation and our very way of life. The enemy is adapting, evolving and plotting further attacks. We must be informed and always one step ahead. The security of America and the survival of her people rely heavily upon our ability to prosecute and win these wars. Investing in manpower, equipment and technology is a necessary part of that equation.

Our armed forces keep us safe and free. They deserve gratitude, and in order to fulfill their Constitutional role, they deserve sufficient financial resources too.

Michele Bachmann represents Minnesota’s Sixth District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of The Heritage Foundation.