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Obama plan cuts defense spending to pre-9/11 levels

Created on June 23, 2009

Obama plan cuts defense spending to pre-9/11 levels

Needed: Adequate Resources for America's Core Defense Program

By Ken McIntyre

Only politicians determined to spend $1 billion a day to "stimulate" the economy could balk at committing tens of millions less than that to bolster our national defense.

But that's where the Obama administration and liberals in Congress stand at this writing: Investing another $26 billion next year to protect America isn't as important as putting American taxpayers on the hook for trillions in dubious spending to take over businesses and "create or save" jobs.

President Obama's defense budget for fiscal 2010 falls short of providing sufficient resources for the nation's core defense program. What's more, the administration's spending plan invites a hard question: Is it forcing the Defense Department onto an ill-advised diet that will deprive the U.S. military of modern weapons and equipment?

The White House's own numbers anticipate cutting defense spending within five years to slightly above 2001 levels as a percentage of America's economic output -- and to pre-9/11 levels within 10 years.

"The FY 2010 budget request fails to provide adequate funding for the basic building blocks in the core defense program, which are needed to protect national security over the long term."

That's the assessment of Baker Spring, a leading authority on national security and the defense budget at The Heritage Foundation.

"Fighting and winning the long war on terrorism will require a sustained commitment to fund national defense programs," Spring says in his new paper detailing shortcomings of the president's plan. "The U.S. needs to fund defense programs that protect Americans and friends and allies against ongoing threats from hostile states such as Iran and North Korea, as well as potential threats such as the one posed by a hostile China."

Since the Kennedy administration, annual defense spending has averaged 5.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Once the Vietnam War wound down, the military budget didn't approach 6 percent of GDP again until President Reagan's defense buildup of the 1980s. The Clinton administration reduced defense spending; it didn't climb again as a percentage of GDP until after the terror attacks of 2001.

President Obama's plan allocates $562.8 billion to core defense, an amount equivalent to 3.8 percent of GDP. Funding then is slated to increase by about $10 billion a year over four years -- but Spring notes that means no real growth after inflation.

"As a result, the core defense budget will fall to less than 3.3 percent of GDP in 2014," he writes.

So far, Congress generally has agreed with the administration's plan. Two exceptions are Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who introduced bills to commit the nation to spending no less than 4 percent of GDP on core defense for 10 years.

In real money, that would mean adding $26.4 billion to next year's defense budget and a total of $397.4 billion through fiscal 2014.

The Pentagon's emphasis needs to be on "developing and deploying the next generation of weapons and equipment that U.S. forces will need to fight effectively," Spring says. Doing what's possible to protect America from missile attack, rather than cutting $1.2 billion from that program, must be part of that focus, he argues in a related paper.

It's a good time for Americans to consider: Should the defense of their freedom be sacrificed to liberal lawmakers' pet causes and to runaway automatic spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- not to mention a government-run health care program costing well into the trillions?

"Growth in entitlement spending, not defense spending, created the fiscal crisis facing the federal government," Spring says. "Defense expenditures -- even spending 4 percent of GDP on defense -- will not jeopardize either the health of the economy or the prosperity of the American people."