Defense Cuts Ignore Threats, Increase Risks

Brian Slattery /

President Obama’s cuts to defense put America’s national security at risk, argues Heritage’s James Carafano. As the U.S. draws out of two foreign wars, the President assumes that America will no longer require a capable global force. However, these cuts do not account for growing threats throughout the world. U.S adversaries will only grow emboldened as America draws down its defenses.

Proponents of defense cuts argue that America’s forces are overfunded and bloated; therefore, they can accept a degree of reductions. However, the President’s recent budget request will reduce not just top-line spending but also military readiness. Obama’s strategic guidance calls for a shift to the Asia–Pacific region, yet his budget request cuts funding for both fighter jets and naval ships.

Those who favor slashing defense also argue that American forces can simply do less. They suggest that through a less aggressive foreign policy, the U.S. can minimize its involvement in global conflicts. This argument ignores an important fact: The enemy gets a vote. As America prematurely pulls out of Afghanistan, the Taliban may be emboldened, thinking they can simply outlast the U.S. in the region.

America’s acceptance of a smaller force also sends a negative signal to its allies. As Iran and North Korea continue to develop nuclear weapons, a weaker U.S. missile defense may cause weary allies to produce their own arsenals as a deterrent. Obama’s intended goal of reducing nuclear arms worldwide would thus backfire.

Whether America remains a world power doesn’t seem to matter to the President. The Administration has acknowledged that these defense cuts will increase threats to national security. Regardless of any strategic justifications he has issued, Obama’s real motivation for cuts is to appear fiscally responsible. However, he does not address the real debt driver: entitlement spending. In reality, the defense budget is only one-fifth of federal spending but has already accounted for half of deficit-reduction efforts. The government could zero out defense spending today, and entitlement programs would continue to consume the federal budget.

Others argue that Congress cannot restore defense spending without accompanying tax increases. “Holding national security hostage over tax policy is just unacceptable,” Carafano retorts. Obama, as commander in chief, should understand this. Congress should understand this and fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense. Shrinking America’s military will accomplish only one thing: making America and the free world less safe.