Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ)

On Thursday, Senator Jon Kyl (R–AZ) delivered the third annual Jesse Helms Lecture at The Heritage Foundation. The Jesse Helms Lecture Series highlights foreign policies that Senator Helms (R–NC) championed throughout his years in office. The lecture is a part of Heritage’s Protect America Month, showcasing why Americans must commit to protecting the country in an increasingly dangerous world. This year, Senator Kyl focused on explaining the federal government’s constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense and why it must remain a bedrock principle of American governance.

In his remarks, Senator Kyl focused on “the national security imperative of preserving American sovereignty by maintaining a superior national defense capability and willingness to use it abroad to protect our interests at home.” He expressed a concern that support for ensuring America’s preeminent position is waning both on the political left and right.

A lack of support results from America’s current fiscal problems and from a false belief that the defense budget has caused the country’s fiscal woes. In reality, entitlement programs are the cause of the trouble. Senator Kyl observed that “if defense spending is not the problem, cutting it cannot be the solution.” He is correct.As Heritage’s research shows, President Obama’s recent budget proposal fails to curtail entitlement spending by any significant degree and makes protecting America the President’s lowest priority.

In addition, the sequestration process mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 would impose an additional $500 billion in across-the-board cuts on top of the already scheduled $487 billion in defense cuts if the law remains in force. According to Senator Kyl, “the sequestration cuts go far beyond what is responsible or prudent, applying a meat axe, not intelligent priority-setting.” Potential alternatives include S.2065, the “Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2012” introduced in the Senate. Yesterday, the Housed Armed Services Committee passed the H.R. 4310 Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Both of these laws would replace one year of defense and non-defense sequestration, mostly through attrition of federal workers.

Strong defense is essential, because as history shows us and Senator Kyl points out, “America will need to act in the future somewhere in the world for our own security purposes, even though we cannot today predict where or when.” This is why, in Senator Kyl’s words, “we must champion American sovereignty and liberty, guaranteed by a strong national defense, and resist the siren song of global retreat. The world will be a better place with another ‘American century,’ and so will the people of the United States.”