The federal government has become involved in so many facets of American life that it seems as if there is virtually nothing that it shouldn’t be responsible for, at least in part. But in truth, the government has only a few core responsibilities; all the other activities are actually discretionary. The core responsibilities are justice, domestic tranquility, the general welfare, national defense and securing the blessings of liberty. The first two have to do with law and order, or domestic security. The general welfare can be variously interpreted but fundamentally means a functioning government and economy. The last two are about security against external threats.
The proposed budget unveiled by Representative Paul Ryan is based on a recognition of the fundamental responsibilities of the federal government. As he rightly pointed out, “The first job of the federal government is securing the safety and liberty of its citizens from threats at home and abroad.” With this truth in mind, the Ryan budget rejects the defense cuts agreed to by the Obama Administration and Congress, including Ryan’s own party, and provides for reasonable increases in defense spending.
The fact is that maintaining an adequate military, one capable of securing this country from attack, protecting the global commons and defending America’s overseas interests costs a lot of money. Deterrence of attack on the U.S. homeland, particularly with weapons of mass destruction requires a strategic deterrent that is survivable, safe, secure and credible. Unlike other countries, the United States needs to be able to project military power at great distances, rapidly and into multiple regions of the world. Our men and women in uniform must have the best equipment and training; we do not want them to play for a tie, but to be able to win decisively and survive. Because it is an All-Volunteer military, where most of the personnel are married, it is our responsibility to take care of those in uniform and their families. All of this costs money.
It is not possible to have a world-class military on the cheap which is what the Obama Administration is attempting. Nor is it possible to balance the budget on the back of national defense. Every time we have tried that over the past 70 years, America has been forced to reverse course, rebuild lost military capabilities and spend more money than we would have if a reasonable defense budget had been maintained during periods of relative international peace. As Congressman Ryan observed, “Today in U.S. defense policy there are two big mismatches. The first between the threats we face and the resources we’ve committed to meeting them, and second between our stated policy and the budget the president has requested.”
At the same time, the Ryan budget recognizes the need to reduce the federal budget deficit and, over time, to bring the debt down to sustainable levels or even to zero. Consequently, the Ryan budget makes necessary cuts to other programs. This will ensure that the nation remains safe from external dangers while it repairs the damage to its domestic well-being caused by decades of excessive spending.
Bravo to Congressman Ryan for putting the issue of inadequate defense spending front and center before the American people.
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