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Lewis Morris / August 19, 2021

Don’t Skimp on the Defense Budget

Especially given the Afghanistan debacle, now isn’t the time for cuts.

Appropriations season is in full bloom in Washington with the battle for next year’s budget shaping up in Congress. Oddly enough, in a year when insanity reigns with multibillion-dollar giveaways to complete the Left’s entitlement checklist, the defense budget will hold steady in fiscal 2022. It may even receive a bit of a bump. That’s saying a lot these days.

The $3.5 trillion budget that the Senate moved forward on a strict party-line vote included a $740 billion Pentagon authorization that was $25 billion more than what the Biden administration requested earlier this year. The Senate Armed Services Committee almost unanimously rejected Biden’s $715 billion plan in favor for a slightly more robust defense budget. In comparison to the total defense authorization and the larger 2022 budget, $25 billion doesn’t seem like a big bump, but it does keep defense spending above inflation.

It wasn’t Joe Biden’s disgraceful retreat from Afghanistan that motivated the Senate committee to reject Biden’s budget request by a 24-1 bipartisan vote. Defense analysts with the Center for Strategic Studies, the American Enterprise Institute, and elsewhere suggest that recent developments won’t have much impact on the larger defense budget numbers. Calls for a more muscular defense budget are about focusing on future threats from China and Russia.

While it is still technically true that the U.S. spends more on defense than Communist China, that won’t be true for long. China is on track to match, with the intention of defeating, the U.S. military in head-to-head combat by 2049. (It will be even earlier if the American military insists on focusing its energies on internal gender and racial politics rather than the enemies beyond our shores.) The ChiComs already demonstrate a boldness in Asian regional affairs that has grown considerably in the last decade. It is believed that they could be powerful enough to take Taiwan by force in the next six years. They certainly want the Taiwanese to think so, and pointed to “U.S. humiliation” in Afghanistan to emphasize it.

For our part, the U.S. has not been keeping up with these affairs. Money alone won’t fix that problem, though. The Pentagon is a bureaucracy like any other, only bigger. As such, it is susceptible to sclerotic thinking and antiquated systems. What is needed is imagination, a new generation of fighters who are thinking about tomorrow’s conflicts, the role cyber technology will play, and how to combat any enemy anytime, anywhere. And perhaps more than one enemy at a time.

The world no longer assumes America to be a preeminent power. Our overstretched military, its recent foray into diversity politics, and the country’s feckless foreign policy leadership all play a big role as to why. It is not the time to cut defense spending; it is time to spend smartly and keep the nation’s safety top of mind.

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