As the White House and Congress continue to work toward a debt-ceiling deal, it appears that opposition to defense cuts is dwindling, even among House Republicans. The Hill reported Thursday that “As few as 30 House Republicans would likely consider voting against a debt-ceiling deal that cuts $300 billion from security spending, according to a GOP aide.”

In today’s Wall Street Journal, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warns that making those cuts would be “a grievous mistake”:

With no immediate outward signs of negligence, the political penalties for cutting weapons systems and delaying reinvestment in equipment and infrastructure are close to zero for those in office today. But the penalty for being ill-prepared tomorrow when the unforeseen occurs—whether another terrorist attack at home or a major crisis abroad—can be measured in American lives lost.”

Rumsfeld notes that cutting defense now has repercussions down the road:

Our country has taken an ax to our national security budget—both the Defense Department and the intelligence community—after every war of the 20th century. And every time we later regretted it. After years of grinding conflict, it can be easy to fall prey to the comfortable fiction that the ugly business of conflict is over and that the U.S. can reduce its military and intelligence capabilities. If we revert to the pennywise policies of the 1990s, we are certain to have to once again scramble to rebuild our defenses in the future.

Given the state of the U.S. military, making those cuts is nothing we can afford. The Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner writes that the military is already suffering from lack of funding, and that drastic cuts should not be on the table.

Let’s not delude ourselves. The fact is, we’ve been living for a while now off past military buildups. But things wear out. Equipment breaks down, and it can be patched up only so many times before it’s unable to do the job it’s meant to do. It’s time to make airplanes that are younger than their pilots and ships that are younger than their commanders.

Otherwise, we risk repeating cycles of the past. When we cut too deeply, as we did during President Carter’s time in office, we degrade our ability to defend ourselves.

There’s a way to get spending under control without gutting defense — and The Heritage Foundation does it in its Saving the American Dream plan. That’s the course Congress and the White House should take in order to secure the United States’ fiscal health, as well as its national security.