Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon, Keeper of the Flame

Frank Gaffney

10/6/2011 12:46:00 PM - Frank Gaffney

The United States is teetering at the precipice of disaster. It not only confronts an increasingly dangerous world. It is engaged in defense budget cuts that will, predictably, make it more so. Worse yet, legislators are actively contemplating steps that will not just hollow out our military, but eviscerate it - an irresistible invitation to aggression by freedom's foes.

At the moment, no one has taken a more prominent, informed and vociferous role in opposing such self-inflicted wounds than the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon. Under his leadership, that panel has done more than any other to lay out the dire implications of the national security spending reductions already in the pipeline, and those now in prospect.

Notably, in a recently released report entitled "Future Cuts Transform a Superpower into a Regional Power," Mr. McKeon's staff determined that, "We believe potential cuts to the military pose a serious threat that would break the back of our armed forces while slowing our economic recovery and doing little to resolve our debt crisis."

The report illuminates the myriad ways in which the finest military in the history of the world could be rendered in the immediate future ill-equipped, inadequately trained, insufficiently manned and inappropriate to emerging international conditions.

For instance, we have very old and, in some cases, actually obsolescent weapon systems - armored vehicles, ships, aircraft, missiles and nuclear weapons. Their modernization and associated research and development is going over the side.

At the same time, the troops responsible for wielding such arms in order to keep the rest of us safe and free are being asked to sacrifice as never before, with some performing their fourth, fifth or sixth combat tours. These servicemen and women are nonetheless being told that they will have to do so with less training, even older gear, fewer funds to maintain it and the likelihood that the pensions, medical care and other benefits they have earned will be savaged.

This is, as Chairman McKeon has warned, the way to break the military. His staff even anticipates that the return of conscription may be required to fill the ranks if the all-volunteer force simply cannot withstand such buffeting.

Mr. McKeon's House Armed Services Committee has gone on point to try to stave off this looming disaster. Its members have used legislative initiatives, oversight hearings, public statements and official correspondence to rouse the public. The chairman has even produced a video called "Providing for the Common Defense."

The good news? There is little doubt that the American people are disinterested in such a weakening of their national security - to say nothing of running the attendant risks.

For example, a recent national opinion survey of likely general election voters done for Secure America Now by Democratic political strategist Pat Caddell and Republican pollster John McLaughlin established a stunning fact: 96% of Americans consider national security to be important when considering candidates for the presidency, with 67% saying it is very important. Does anyone really think such sentiment means these voters seek leaders who will imperil our security?

Polling done for Let Freedom Ring shows that those who would have us believe that Tea Partiers are exclusively concerned about the threat posed by the federal government's red ink and rising deficits are seriously misinformed. As that organization's president, Colin Hanna, has pointed out: A national sample conducted earlier this year of likely voters identifying themselves as "generally supportive of the Tea Party movement" revealed this insight: 55% of such voters are not in favor of cutting the defense budget beyond current levels, as opposed to only 34% favoring further reductions in its accounts.

The bad news is that many of these sensible Americans are unaware of what is afoot in Washington. Their robust attitudes and the need to equip them with the ominous facts being generated by Rep. McKeon and his colleagues, by industry, by key think tanks and veterans organizations have inspired the formation of a new Coalition for the Common Defense. It is made up of scores of national and grassroots organizations, civilian and military security policy practitioners and many others committed to the practice Ronald Reagan called "peace through strength."

The Coalition will give voice to the need and expectation that our government will fulfill its constitutional duty to provide for the common defense and bring additional firepower to bear in support of Congressman McKeon's efforts. Presentations of the surveys described above can be seen on the Coalition's website, FortheCommonDefense.org, as will be information about its roll-out tomorrow on Capitol Hill featuring leading Coalition partners and key legislators.

Buck McKeon is a true Keeper of the Flame. He deserves our thanks for his leadership in the fight to preserve our national security and he needs our help. With his leadership and growing evidence of the support it enjoys among our countrymen, we may yet stave off the disaster than looms for this nation and the Free World more generally at the hands of those who wish us ill and who can be deterred or, if necessary, defeated - as long as we remain strong enough to preserve the peace.

NOTE: Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon was the 2011 recipient of the Center for Security Policy's Keeper of the Flame Award, an honor bestowed on individuals whose work to defend America best represents the philosophy of "peace through strength." Presenting Rep. McKeon with the award was Sen. Jon Kyl (himself the 1994 Keeper of the Flame). The evening concluded with a stirring benediction by Rep. McKeon's newest colleague on the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Allen West.