“Because of decisions over the last 15 years -- driven more by budgetary than by military considerations -- the Army is too small, the Navy and Marine Corps may well be too small, and much of the equipment in all the services is too old and increasingly unreliable. Without a substantial increase in procurement spending … the U.S. will be unable to modernize its forces to the degree necessary to preserve its security with the necessary margin of safety.”
This is frightening, to say the least. National security, after all, is Job 1 for our elected leaders, and many of them clearly don’t get it. Ronald Reagan did, and that’s one of the reasons so many Americans admired him. He was willing to spend what it took to ensure our safety. Reagan knew that without “freedom from fear,” our other freedoms mean little. He was the one who proved, once and for all, the validity of his policy of “peace through strength.” He also understood that the first duty of government is to “provide for the common defense.”
Today, far too many politicians seem to think the first role of government is to provide a comfortable way of life for every American. The truth is, the very notion of life in America is at risk without a strong fighting force.
As Heritage experts explain, there are two critical realities which must be addressed now:
We face serious security threats today and can see others on the horizon. “The U.S. needs to fund defense programs that will protect the American people and U.S. friends and allies against the ongoing threats from hostile states (e.g., Iran and North Korea) and looming threats like the one posed by a hostile China,” writes Heritage Foundation defense expert Baker Spring in a recent paper.
The coming crisis in entitlement spending threatens to crowd out other priorities. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all have claimed bigger and bigger portions of the federal budget since the 1960s -- and this growth has generally come at the expense of our defense budget. Adequately funding our defense will become impossible if the “Big Three” entitlement programs continue on autopilot. Heritage experts consider 4 percent of GDP adequate to meet tomorrow’s military threats.
As Thomas Paine once wrote, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” We can’t expect to protect ourselves and stand by our allies by pinching defense dollars. It’s time to stop pretending that we can.
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