President Barack Obama’s plan to cut $400 billion in security spending by 2023, which he outlined today in a speech in Washington D.C., is an admirable but modest first step toward getting our nation’s fiscal house in order. After 13 straight years of real growth in the baseline defense budget—the longest period of sustained real growth in U.S. history—our nation now spends more on defense than it has at any point since the end of World War II, including during the peak of the Cold War. This level of spending is not only disproportionate to current national security threats but also negatively affects U.S. national security by growing the federal budget deficit and undermining the overall health of our economy.
Total defense spending today includes the baseline budget, war costs, and defense funding contained in the budgets of other departments. And in total they are more than our nation can afford. Adm. Michael Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, is absolutely correct when he makes this same point. That’s why our nation needs to consider seriously the president’s modest proposal to bring our defense spending in line with actual threats to our country—while ensuring that other aspects of our national security, particularly diplomacy and foreign aid, are not crippled by budget cuts.
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