America’s Dangerous Defense Cuts

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by John McCain,

from The Wall Street Journal,

Threats are rising around the globe, yet the U.S. is poised to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon over 10 years.

Providing for national defense is the highest constitutional responsibility of the federal government, which congressional Republicans now share in equal measure with President Obama. We believe that the country cannot meet this responsibility within the caps on defense spending imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and sequestration. If Washington does not change course now, Republicans will share the blame for the national-security failures that will inevitably result.

There is no national-security basis for sequestration. In the past year Russia has challenged core principles of the postwar order in Europe by invading and annexing the territory of another sovereign nation. A terrorist army that has proclaimed its desire to attack the United States and its allies now controls a vast swath of territory in the heart of the Middle East.

Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons while expanding its malign influence across the region. And China has stepped up its coercive behavior in Asia, backed by its rapid military modernization. Every year since the Budget Control Act was passed, the world has become more dangerous, and the threats to the nation and to American interests have grown. We do not think this is a coincidence.

And yet, under the BCA with sequestration, the U.S. must cut defense by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years. These cuts are seriously undermining the capabilities, readiness, morale and modernization of the armed forces. The senior military leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have all testified to our committees that, with defense spending at sequestration levels, they cannot execute the National Military Strategy. These military leaders warned in January that sequestration is putting American lives at risk. This is a crisis of Washington’s own making.

Some advocates of the BCA are willing to overlook its damage to national security because, they claim, at least it cuts the debt. But it doesn’t even do that in a meaningful way.

Military spending is not to blame for out-of-control deficits and debt—it is now 16% of federal spending, the lowest share since before World War II. By 2020, it will be 13%. Interest on the debt soon will consume a larger portion of the federal budget than will military spending. Yet national defense took 50% of the cuts under the Budget Control Act and sequestration. The true drivers of the nation’s long-term debt—entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare—took none.

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