This week, some members of Congress drew a stark red line against any additional defense cuts, particularly those from a “Doomsday” trigger scenario if the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee fails or Congress does not pass their spending cut proposals.
“Defending Defense”-a joint initiative of The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative-brought together U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), well as Representatives Randy Forbes (R-VA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Allen West (R-FL) to discuss the importance of the federal government’s primary responsibility to protect America.
Kyl, a member of the “Super Committee” designated to produce additional debt reduction strategies, highlighted how military spending and capabilities have already been drastically reduced over the past three years. He told the audience that he is off the committee if they want to consider more defense cuts. In sum: enough is enough.
Defense has already contributed disproportionately to debt reduction even though this spending is not the driving source of the government’s debt crisis. Both Kyl and Graham dismissed the trigger option, which would impose dangerous consequences not only for service members but also the nation. They vowed that under any scenario, the trigger will not be pulled for massive defense cuts.
All of the elected officials at the Heritage-sponsored event spoke of the need for strategic clarity; not Defense Department strategy documents that simply try to chase down the latest budget numbers.
Forbes reminded the audience of the inextricable link between America’s economic and military strength. Hunter practically begged senior military and civilian officials in the Defense Department to start providing straightforward answers to Congress.
The military has reached the point where it cannot absorb more defense cuts absent America relinquishing its unique leadership role in the world.
The Pentagon’s bumper-sticker solution of asking the men and women in uniform to “assume more risk” will not work any longer. The Chiefs must clearly spell out the costs and consequences of increased risk.
This week, before the House Armed Services Committee, retired Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, Jr., somberly told Congress that one consequence of more risk is more unnecessary deaths. Other consequences of forcing the military to absorb ever more risks include longer conflict durations, slower mobilization rates, decreased readiness levels, and even mission failure. Higher security risks also give the military-and the nation-less strategic flexibility.
While it is a welcome sign to see lawmakers say more defense cuts are off the table, DoD leaders must be more candid. There simply is no more elasticity in the military to safely absorb another dollar of budget-driven reductions.