The downgrading of the credit quality of the United States government by Standard & Poor’s set off turbulence in global equity markets. With the world economy slipping into recession, the need to implement a hard-nosed plan to reduce federal spending has become an even more critical priority than it was two weeks earlier.
There is no longer a debate about why, but simply, where to make the cuts. Even France, the second largest European economy, is operating with a 5.7% budgeted deficit reduction target for 2011 and is evaluating further austerity measures and tax increases.
Responsible members of Congress know that tough decisions must be made, but unfortunately representatives of both parties gravitate toward large cuts in those budget items that appear to be less harmful to their re-election plans. One of those targeted areas is our defense budget.
We are less than a month away from the 10-year anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of the United States. Can you recall how you felt that day? Can you recall the surge of patriotism that swept our country? Can you recall seeing crowds of passengers at airports applaud groups of soldiers as they walked to their flights?
Since that time, we have waged ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no clear exit strategy that would prevent extremists from regaining power in either nation. The cost of conducting these wars is astronomical and the unexpected duration of both engagements is severely taxing our military. The loss earlier this month of 30 dedicated servicemen, shot down in their Chinook helicopter by the Taliban, was not only an awful human tragedy, but a major financial loss, given the investment made in developing those 22 brave Navy seals who lost their lives in that incident.
The world has become increasingly volatile, economically, politically and even in terms of weather catastrophes. Last week, China sent its first aircraft carrier to sea, altering the balance of power in the Pacific, the first step in potentially denying the United States access to Asian waters. The United States has increased sanctions against Syria. North Korea and South Korea continue to fire shots across their borders. London experienced violent rioting and looting. This volatility translates to heightened risks to our national security.
It is not the time to make irresponsible cuts to our defense budget. We need more troops with better equipment and new technologies to protect them against well-armed enemies. We need to maintain a strong Navy with effective aircraft carriers and naval-based fighter aircraft. Our military capabilities are stretched today. What if we were required to fight in yet another theatre that required conventional warfare techniques? Could we handle it? In making the tough decisions to cut the federal budget, let’s remember that the primary responsibility of the government is the defense of our nation — and commit to providing our military with the funds to protect our precious freedom.