On this day 70 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress and requested a declaration of war against Japan following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor the day before. Roosevelt’s words carried forth across the nation via radio, and the consequences of the actions America would take would be felt around the world–and across history. The lessons America learned in those fateful days should be remembered even today.
Roosevelt noted that the day of Japan’s attack would be “a date which will live in infamy,” and he also pledged the following:
I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbounding determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.
At 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, Roosevelt signed the declaration of war, and the rest is history. Through America’s incredible sacrifice and determination, the United States and its allies won victory, though it came at an incredible cost.
Just as Roosevelt proclaimed that “hostilities exist” 70 years ago, those words are true today. The United States faces threats at home and abroad–as we were reminded on September 11 and with every man and woman in military who makes the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms. The hostilities we face today are different from those we may face tomorrow, and there is no telling what challenges may lie around the corner. For that reason, our military must stand ready, prepared, and adequately equipped and funded to meet all threats, foreign and domestic.
Unfortunately, the U.S. military’s ability to effectively carry out its mission is in jeopardy. Today, there are those who would like America to return to an era of disengagement while also slashing military spending to dangerous levels. Under the Budget Control Act (BCA), the military budget will be cut by almost $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Those cuts come on top of successive rounds of deep cuts in defense dollars and capabilities that Congress and the Obama Administration have already implemented. In a new paper, Heritage’s Mackenzie Eaglen writes that those cuts will undermine U.S. power and influence around the world and reduce the ability of the military to meet future threats:
The military is a vital tool of U.S. foreign policy. Slashing defense spending without any reduction in U.S. foreign policy commitments around the world is not only dangerous, but also more costly in the long run than maintaining stable defense budgets. A review of roles and missions will not change U.S. foreign policy; only the President can do that. Starving the military as part of a deficit reduction plan may cost taxpayers more in the future if it makes the country less safe and increases the risk of another terrorist attack or the likelihood of U.S. forces being drawn into yet another overseas mission.
The only responsible way to fund defense is to identify the nation’s vital national interests, ask what is required to defend the nation and those interests, determine what military capabilities are required to do so, and then build a defense budget to match the foreign and defense policies of the United States.
Eaglen recommends that Congress tackle debt reduction responsibly with American security interests in mind. That means stopping the current rounds of defense cuts, budgeting responsibly for America’s foreign policy needs and objectives, and repealing the debt ceiling deal “trigger.” Other actions she recommends include stabilizing the military’s modernization accounts, aggressively promoting foreign military sales and increasing cutting-edge defense exports to friends and allies, and forcing the Department of Defense to innovate even as budgets fall.
Some would have Americans believe that defense budget cuts required under the BCA would reduce only the rate of increase in the overall defense budget. While precise defense budget projections under the BCA are not possible, it is a certainty that the overall defense budget will decline under its terms. And those are reductions the military can ill afford. Since President Obama took office, more than 50 major weapons programs at a value of more than $300 billion were cut or delayed. On top of this, the Administration told the military to cut almost $600 billion more over the next 15 years. That was even before the BCA took effect.
This is no way to fund a military or to fulfill the Constitution’s prescription that the primary role of the federal government is “to provide for the common defence.” That duty is just as important now as it was 70 years ago when America faced one of its greatest challenges. Just as they did then, Congress and the President should ensure that the federal government carries out its responsibilities today and fully funds our military.