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How Can We Provide for Those Who Serve?

Today, we at The Heritage Foundation will honor Veterans Day by pausing to remember those who sacrifice in defense of freedom for our country. Heritage honors all who serve past and present in the United States Armed Forces, their families, and all military retirees and veterans. We solemnly remember those fallen men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion and will also not forget those who have yet to come home and remain missing in action.

On this national holiday we also take a closer look at how Congress plans to provide for those who serve. Yesterday, President Barack Obamas National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released a report calling for $100 billion cuts to the defense budget. The Commissions defense cuts would make America less safe and are thus completely irresponsible.

The Commissions report would completely undermine the minimum capability of the armed forces to protect and defend the people of the United States. The cuts are even deeper than the already inadequate levels of funding identified in the Department of Defenses Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

If anything, our federal government is not spending enough on defense. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP and as percentage of the federal budget are already at near historic post World War II lows-at a time when the modern military has never been busier. And this summer a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission chaired by former Clinton Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former Bush National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley concluded (pdf):

We cannot reverse the decline of shipbuilding, buy enough naval aircraft, recapitalize Army equipment, modernize tactical aircraft, purchase a new aerial tanker, increase our deep-strike capability and recapitalize the bomber fleet just by saving the $10 billion-$15 billion the Department hopes to achieve through acquisition reform. Meeting the crucial requirements of modernization will require a substantial additional investment that is sustained through the long term. Although there is a cost to recapitalizing the military, there is also a potential price associated with not recapitalizing and in the long run, that cost is much greater.

While there are efficiencies that can be gained in military spending, these savings need to be reinvested in the armed forces to make up for decades of neglect in long-term modernization-buying the planes, ships, and vehicles our men and women need to protect us.

Not only would the Commissions cuts leave America vulnerable to a resurgent threat, they would also allow China in some areas to actually gain distinct military advantages over the U.S. and send a clear message to countries like North Korea and Iran, as well as Americas own allies that the U.S. is no longer capable and willing to defend Americas interests.

Providing the military just enough to barely get by is dangerous, and an outright dereliction of duty by federal policymakers whose first job is found in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution: to provide for the common defense of the American people.

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