According to the Foreign Policy Initiative’s (FPI) national survey, a majority of Americans support America’s role in world affairs and do not believe that we spend too much on defense. Therefore, action must be taken to change the current plan to haphazardly slash defense spending.
After surveying 1,000 likely voters across party lines, FPI found that 92.2 percent of Americans “believe it is important for the United States to continue playing a significant role in world affairs.” Protecting American’s interests, and maintaining a significant role in the world, requires a strong national defense.
Accordingly, the survey showed that “Americans strongly reject the claim that the United States spends an excessive amount on national defense. A strong majority of respondents (63.1 percent) say current levels of defense spending are either ‘about right’ (40.1 percent) or ‘too little’ (23.0 percent).”
In addition, only 14.5 percent of Americans see defense spending as the largest contributor to the national debt, yet it has already accounted for more than half of deficit reduction efforts.
Although a majority of Americans do not believe that defense spending is too high, nearly $900 billion has already been cut from the defense budget since 2009, and roughly another half-trillion dollars will be cut if sequestration takes effect on January 2. These cuts will only further intensify the readiness crisis that the U.S. military faces today.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno stated: “Frankly, we are on the razor’s edge when we talk about readiness.”
There has been less maintenance time for planes, ships, and other equipment while our Armed Forces have been engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, more than one-fifth of Navy ships are not sufficient for combat, and Air Force pilots are flying over 50-year-old B-52s. This decreased state of readiness can have a profound effect on the ability of the U.S. to protect itself, carry out its missions successfully, and respond to future war-fighting contingencies.
The dwindling readiness of our military is especially alarming considering that threats against the U.S. have not declined. As of now, there is an increasingly precarious situation in the Middle East: Iran is on the brink of gaining nuclear weapons, Syria is engaged in a bloody civil war, anti-American protests are spanning across the region, and active terrorist organizations are working to assert their will.
Considering those facts, it is not surprising that the FPI survey found that “59.8% of respondents now believe that recent events in the Middle East have made national security issues more important in their deliberations over whom to vote for.” It is therefore important to note that sequestration will be a detriment to the ability of the U.S. to promote stability in the region.
The FPI survey suggests that Americans understand the U.S.’s significant role in the world and do not believe that we should cut defense spending. Congress should recognize the importance of national security issues and tackle sequestration before it further weakens military readiness and hinders the ability of the U.S. to protect its interests.
Bianca Falcone is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.