The Right Opinion

Winning the Defense Spending Debate

By Ken Blackwell · Nov. 16, 2012

With no time to recover from a thorough election day whooping, Republicans in a lame duck Congress are facing an even worse budgetary nightmare than last year. And they only have two months to negotiate a solution with President Obama.

Last time, as the Chair of the Balanced Budget Amendment campaign, fellow conservatives and I were urging Republicans to tie the unavoidable increase in the debt ceiling to a balanced budget amendment. Because it also prohibited tax increases, the amendment would have required balance to be achieved through necessary cuts throughout the federal government.

But in the end, politicians did what you might expect: They punted the issue. And America will now face serious consequences.

Initially, liberals in Congress set up a plan called “sequestration” that has held the U.S. military hostage to their desire to raise taxes. The original plan was to convince other congressmen to cave to tax increases to prevent those defense cuts.

Now those cuts are scheduled to take effect in January, and they would harm our military readiness.

During the presidential foreign policy debate, President Obama declared that sequestration “will not happen.” Yet with $1.6 billion in tax increases on the table, he has already factored these military cuts into his fiscal planning for the future.

I agree with my longtime friend and former RSC Chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who said that while slashing the defense budget is undesirable, it is better than nothing. If the automatic cuts are suspended, the only thing taxpayers will have received in last year’s deal was a $2.4 billion increase in debt.

Instead of accepting lazy and dangerous across-the-board defense cuts, Republicans must be at the negotiation table prepared with ideas for how to reduce military spending intelligently. When it comes to our military budget and vital national security programs, a scalpel is better than an indiscriminate budget ax.

And there are plenty of opportunities to find savings. On Thursday, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma released a study of Defense Department cuts which could easily save taxpayers $68 billion over 10 years. For too long, Congress has perpetuated a system that protects redundant, wasteful and failing programs that bilk taxpayers and provide no benefits to our brave men and women in uniform.

One place to start slashing would be the experimental Standard Missile-3 IIB missile defense program, an interceptor that is to one day take out long-range enemy missiles. It is the foundation of the fourth phase of the President’s so-called Phased Adaptive Approach, but the delivery of these missiles could still be a decade away.

Opposition to the SM-3 IIB has been mounting. The concept was singled out as a candidate for elimination by a recent missile defense report authored by the National Research Council.

“It’s not that Phase 4 is a stupid idea or that it won’t work,” Walter Slocombe, who co-chaired the NRC expert committee that wrote the report, said in an interview with Global Security Newswire. “It is that it is only necessary for the defense of the United States and there is a better way to do the defense.”

L. David Montague, former President of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space program and a member of the National Research Council may have summed it up best: “For too long, the U.S. has been committed to expensive missile defense strategies without sufficient consideration of the costs and real utility.”

The SM-3 IIB, as an untested technology with fuzzy development timelines, epitomizes that problem. It was supposed to roll off production lines by 2020, but the U.S. Navy, as recently as last month, was still defining the missile’s requirements and capabilities. Without a defined concept in mind, development, design and testing, and production are many years away. In fact, it may never be used, and taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.

What is confirmed by the National Research Council and other military experts is that our leaders would rather have scarce resources be spent in well-tested missile defense systems that have the best chance of protecting our homeland and allies.

There are certainly other examples, but wildly expensive experimental programs like the SM-3 IIB should be first on the chopping block if Republicans want to rid the Department of Defense of wasteful spending.

And as the budget debate becomes loud and vicious, we cannot allow liberals to hold the military hostage. Only by carefully considering the often overlooked details of military budget can we avoid higher taxes and a weakened national security.