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November 2, 2010

GET TO WORK: Protect America

THE ISSUE

The high pace of overseas operations that began in the 1990s strains every branch of America’s military. Even with the increases in the overall defense budget that took place after 2001, the U.S. armed forces still need better support from Congress to perform their missions.

To protect America and its interests abroad, and support those in uniform, Congress must provide for defense an average of $720 billion per year (to be adjusted for inflation) for each of the next five fiscal years, in addition to the funding needed for ongoing contingency operations. Congress must insist on efficiency within the defense budget as well, and reinvest dollars achieved from reforms in the military to offset the cost of developing and modernizing next-generation equipment.

THE FACTS

  • National Defense Is a Constitutional Obligation. The U.S. Constitution directs the federal government first and foremost to provide for the common defense. Only fully equipped and modernized forces can assure this end.
  • Compromising Core Missions Jeopardizes Security. America needs a military capable of fulfilling its core missions. These include protecting our homeland and providing security for our allies; ensuring access to sea, air, space, and cyberspace; helping our allies build their defenses to better partner with us if needed and defeating enemies on their territory so they cannot attack the U.S. with impunity. We cannot do this with smaller forces and outdated materiel.
  • Military Equipment Is Aging. The major operations the U.S. began in 2001, following a decade of equipment and personnel cuts have worn out the military’s inventory of fighting vehicles, planes, and ships much more quickly than planned. For example, Air Force tactical aircraft are, on average, over 20 years old; bombers nearly 30; and tankers about 45 years old. The U.S. must modernize equipment to ensure those in uniform can fulfill their missions, deter would-be aggressors, and defend national interests now and in the future.
  • Defense Spending Is Near Historical Lows. Defense spending came in at 38% of gross domestic product (GDP) during World War II; 14% in the Korean War; 10% during the Vietnam War, and 7% in the Cold War. Yet since 2001, it has averaged roughly 4% of GDP even with the nation at war.
  • Obama’s Defense Budgets Will Shrink Even Further. White House budget plans indicate defense budgets will fall to just 3% of GDP in 2019.
  • Defense Spending Is Not the Cause of America’s Fiscal Woes. Mandatory spending on entitlements and interest on the debt currently accounts for over 50% of the federal budget, while defense spending accounts for less than one-fifth.

CONGRESS MUST

  • Adequately Fund Defense. Congress must provide for defense an average of $720 billion per year (to be adjusted for inflation) for each of the next five fiscal years, excluding funds for Afghanistan and Iraq. The annual defense appropriation bills should reflect these spending guidelines and be given priority for floor time and signed into law before the start of the fiscal year. This is not an arbitrary number, but one based on a sound strategic assessment of what armed forces are needed in the future.
  • Adopt a Sensible and Efficient Defense Budget. Eliminating waste and redundancies are worthy goals and should be pursued in earnest. Any funds achieved from defense efficiencies must be reinvested into the defense budget, specifically to offset the cost of modernizing and developing next-generation equipment. Real reform means fixing outdated, inefficient compensation packages (while maintaining effective recruitment and retention, and honoring obligations) and business practices—not cutting troops and critical capabilities like missile defenses and air, land, sea and space superiority. By maintaining sensible and stable defense budgets and adopting better personnel management policies, Congress can find the urgently needed funds for modernization and provide a steady stream of funding for new, vitally needed equipment with higher and more efficient production rates, economies of scale, and lower production costs.

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