October 30, 2010 | Commentary on National Security and Defense

National Security: The Morning After the Election

In the movie “The Candidate,” Robert Redford grabs his campaign manager on election night, pulls him into the closet and asks, “What now?”

Whoever soon controls Congress will have to do better than that. On the national security front, there are too many things going wrong very fast. The Obama Doctrine for foreign policy has been a disaster. If Congress acts with alacrity, it can keep things from getting worse.

Priority #1 has to be getting the lame duck right. It should be short and sweet. It is completely shameful that Congress has not passed the defense budget and defense authorization bills.

Legislation was supposed to be in place before the government’s “fiscal” year started on Oct. 1. In the past, getting this work done was considered virtually sacrosanct. In contrast, this Congress has treated defense like political cannon fodder. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went so far as to load up this year’s defense authorization bill with measures so odious he knew it would force the other side to vote against it.

It’s not the first time Reid has played politics with the defense authorization bill. He did the same thing in 2007. Congress has to stop the insanity of just piling defense bills in the stack with all the other unfinished business. They have to send the signal that protecting the safety and security of all Americans comes first.

At the same time, in the Senate members might think twice about finishing up consideration of the New START nuclear arms deal that President Obama negotiated with Moscow. Recently six senators wrote to the president listing several concerns about the treaty and asking for a lot more information. They argue the White House needs to be a lot more transparent on the issue before the treaty is put to a ratification vote.

The treaty is deeply flawed and will be difficult to fix. If the Senate decides to push off a vote, it will send out a strong signal that it takes its national security responsibilities seriously.

Once the New Year rolls around, Congress can then roll up its sleeves and really start to show that it will not compromise on its part of the responsibility to “provide for the common defense.” That would start with a budget resolution that commits to strong robust defense budgets. A responsible commitment would be no less than $3.6 trillion for the core defense program, (exclusive of funding for ongoing U.S. overseas contingency operations) for 2012 through 2016. The Pentagon’s budget (which is at near historic-post World War II lows in terms of spending as a percentage of GDP) is not the cause of the nation’s fiscal woes. Gutting defense is not the answer. Trying to balance the budget by going after defense spending will only put our troops and risk and leave the American people vulnerable. Congress can kill such talk by just saying no — to compromising on defense.

James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

First appeared in Big Peace