Here they come. Armed with charts and info-graphics, the “cut the defense budget” crowd is up in arms yet again. “How dare the US spend more than the next 10 countries on defense” they scream. Is defense spending really out of control?
Yes, indeed the U.S. is spending more than other nations. However, U.S. defense spending has risen dramatically since 2001. But is this alone enough to make us run for the exits with our friends, and exclaim that it’s time to cut the budget? No. Not at all.
Using figures from the National Defense Budget show that while defense spending has risen from 2001 by 29%, social and economic spending has risen by over 35%. Some claim that using inflation adjusted dollars, social and economic programs have ballooned by 61% of their 2001 levels.
However, the real question to ask in this argument is, “to what degree have U.S. national interests abroad changed?” While the war in Afghanistan and Iraq have abated, tensions in the South China Sea are on the rise. Russia continues to show aggression in the Arctic, Baltic Sea, and Crimea. Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Syria are all on fire. Iran is in pursuit of a ballistic missile program. Saudi Arabia faces possible turmoil while North Korea continues to conduct nuclear tests.
Of all times to demand a reduction in defense spending, the U.S. currently finds itself with a full plate. Defense spending should be decided upon by our national security needs. The U.S. should establish a clear vision of force structure and methods needed to win our future conflicts. Then the U.S. should budget. Spending should be driven by the reality of our current needs. By first assessing the threats to the nation, the U.S. can then determining what it would cost to meet these needs. If we continue to let budgetary pressures dissolve readiness and slow the ability to respond to interests, costs and spending in the long run will only rise.