Today, we at The Heritage Foundation will honor Veterans Day by pausing to remember those who sacrifice in defense of freedom for our country. Heritage honors all who serve past and present in the United States Armed Forces, their families, and all military retirees and veterans. We solemnly remember those fallen men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion and will also not forget those who have yet to come home and remain missing in action.
This national holiday warrants a diversion from discussing domestic priorities to take a closer look at what Congress and the White House are doing about many pressing defense issues.
Some policymakers seem want to keep defense and military issues out of the headlines, choosing instead to continue cutting the defense budget to fund domestic programs. This observation is based on actual outcomes from this year’s defense budget debate.
During the past few months, Congress and the President effectively shut down the purchase of next-generation equipment for the military. That includes: the Air Force’s F-22 fifth-generation fighter aircraft, the most sophisticated in the world; the Army’s ground vehicles designed to replace a combat fleet built in the 1970s and 80s; two types of helicopters-one which fulfills the unique duty of rescuing military personnel held behind enemy lines; and large cuts to the missile defense program designed to thwart the threat of long-range ballistic missiles from hitting U.S. shores and cities.
What’s likely next year? Jack Reed (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently opined that the Department of Defense should buckle up for some (more) “painful adjustments”-as if any more could be borne by those in uniform-and get ready to do the following:
*sacrifice defense dollars to pay for TARP, the stimulus bill, domestic programs and the federal debt;
*hand over another chunk of the defense budget to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for civilian aid or “soft power” programs; and
*delay or cut weapons programs that are not “absolutely essential.”
Unfortunately, Congress set a horrible precedent, having given the President so many of his defense cuts during a time of war. That just makes more devastating cancellations likely in the coming years.
The problem is that, since they have no new weapons systems to slash, politicians will need to start eliminating equipment that today’s troops are using everyday. This includes replacements for tanks, trucks, ships and planes that are already worn out after nine years of consecutive warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In short, finding further “savings” in the defense budget would require cutting to the bone and hurting those in uniform. Having a world-class military and truly honoring those who serve requires policymakers to provide the same technologically-advanced equipment to defeat any enemy when necessary and protect those in harm’s way.
Providing the military just enough to barely get by is dangerous, and an outright dereliction of duty by federal policymakers whose first job is found in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution: to provide for the common defense of the American people.
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The Heritage Foundation is off today in honor of Veterans Day so blogging will be light.