Budget cuts to the defense department proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates have stirred controversy among Americans this week. While money for bailouts and stimulus packages skyrockets, defense spending has been on the backburner. Gates outlined three reasons for his proposal:
First, to reaffirm our commitment to take care of the all-volunteer force, which, in my view represents America’s greatest strategic asset;
Second, we must rebalance this department’s programs in order to institutionalize and enhance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies.
Third, in order to do this, we must reform how and what we buy, meaning a fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition, and contracting
Some House Republicans are unhappy with the proposal, however. Rep. John McHugh (NY), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee said this: “Republicans appreciate Secretary Gates’ effort to shape the Department of Defense so that we more effectively fight the wars our troops are engaged in today; however, we are concerned about the tradeoffs involved in re-balancing the Department. It remains the Congress’ responsibility to provide for the common defense -- continued delays in the release of the defense budget details hinders our ability to carry out our constitutional duty."
It's not just politicians, but military scholars who question the idea. Two American Enterprise Instiute scholars yesterday said this in the Wall Street Journal;
"The budget cuts Mr. Gates is recommending are not a temporary measure to get us over a fiscal bump in the road. Rather, they are the opening bid in what, if the Obama administration has its way, will be a future U.S. military that is smaller and packs less wallop. But what is true for the wars we're in -- that numbers matter -- is also true for the wars that we aren't yet in, or that we simply wish to deter."
Rep. J. Randy Forbes (VA) : "“It goes without saying that we should achieve efficiency in our nation's defense budget by eliminating wasteful programs, however it should be done with respect to strategic need rather than budget numbers.”
There are mixed opinions on the matter of defense spending but one thing is certain: the current overall budget spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much. Putting fiscally responsible money in the necessary places is important and defense spending is certainly one of the most important to consider carefully.