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Defense Budget: Proper Metrics Required

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Unread 02.21.12, 07:38 PM
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Defense Budget: Proper Metrics Required

On 02.21.12 02:00 PM posted by Bryan Kimbell

In a recent Wall Street Journal column, George Will criticizes the GOP for failing to provide a national security policy that Americans would agree upon. Will argues that Obama has stolen the GOP advantage on national security as a result of the GOP’s reluctance to gut the defense budget.

Will notes that the U.S. defense budget “is about 43 percent of the world’s total military spending—more than the combined defense spending of the next 17 nations.” To put this argument in perspective, Americans spend 14 times more money on charitable giving ($307 billion in 2008) than the Italians, seven times more than the Germans, and three-and-a-half more times than the French. Does this mean that Americans should discontinue their generosity because it far outweighs similar spending in other nations? Also, Americans spent approximately $48.3 billion on pet care in 2011. This figure is higher than the individual defense expenditures of France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and Israel.

In the end, the U.S. defense spending should be based on what is needed to defend Americans and not on arbitrary comparisons to other countries.

The U.S. should deter rogue nations from offensive action against its homeland and allies. The U.S. has the world’s largest economy and, unsurprisingly, spends more on protecting it. It costs more to insure a brand new Lexus LS than a 30-year old Honda Civic. Furthermore, Obama’s proposed budget fails to recognize that it is the constitutional priority of the federal government “to provide for the common defense.”

U.S. military spending embodies approximately 20 percent of the total budget and is only 4 percent of overall gross domestic product. In contrast, entitlement spending will soon represent the entire federal budget if left unbridled.

Despite the dangers of entitlement spending, some still choose to make defense the focal point of budget cuts. If the fiscal year 2013 budget is enacted without any changes, the U.S. might not be able to deny Iran the objective of blocking the Strait of Hormuz. The Navy and Coast Guard would be so thinly stretched that they would be incapable of protecting U.S. borders. The Army and the Air Force would suffer similar outcomes.

In the midst of global instability, defense spending is near historical lows, and military equipment is aging quickly. Drastically cutting defense would not balance the budget but only jeopardize the safety of America and its allies by ensuring that America is ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable dangers ahead.

Bryan Kimbell*is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit:*http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

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