Rich Tucker

Debate night in America. In a format designed to eliminate spontaneity and mistakes (so the leader in the polls can “win” by “not losing”), we watch perfectly dressed candidates present perfectly coached answers to perfectly predictable questions delivered by a “perfectly neutral” moderator.

Of course, if John McCain is elected, moderator Gwen Ifill’s book about Barack Obama (due to be released January 20) will sell about as well as the one covering the Patriots 19-0 “Historic Championship Season.” But no doubt she was as fair as she could be when she hosted the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate on.

Still, when the campaign is over and a new president elected next month, that man will have plenty of work to do.

Overseas, he needs to exert American leadership by winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to Gen. Petraeus and the surge, we’re well on our way to doing so.

Beyond that, though, he’ll need to dedicate the resources the military needs to protect us. Our Navy, for example, is the arm that allows a president to project power anywhere on the globe and keeps the sea lanes open. Yet our fleet is only half as large as it was 15 years ago.

We don’t have enough aircraft carriers, either. The Navy is making plans to drop down to just 10 carriers, when it ought to be building and launching more. After all, in the 1980s, the Navy said it needed 15 carriers to protect our national interests -- and the world has only gotten more dangerous since then.

By historical standards, American military spending is extremely low. The next president should demand Congress spend no less than 4 percent of GDP on defense over the next 10 years. That would mean adding roughly $400 billion to the defense budget each year of the new administration.

The next president also must press ahead with missile defense. Just this year, Poland and the Czech Republic agreed to host missile-defense facilities. But the next president needs to push for more research into boost phase interceptors, which can shoot down missiles when they’re just taking off, since they present an easier target when they’re moving slowly and burning hot.

On the domestic front, the next president will have no choice but to focus on entitlement reform. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says entitlement spending alone will push the federal budget deficit to $577 billion by the end of the next president’s first term, and $969 billion by 2018. Our country won’t be able to afford further inaction.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for