An Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal recently by former vice president Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz, “Congress and Obama Depleted the Military,” argues that the Trump budget request of $603 billion for Defense for the 2017 – 2018 FY is not nearly enough to build an adequate U.S. military force. Furthermore, the Cheneys argue that the Budget Control Act of 2011, which set up the ten year sequestration plan for discretionary budget items, should be repealed.
According to the Cheneys, “Providing for the defense of America is the most sacred constitutional obligation of the U.S. Congress. If Congress fails in this, no balanced budget, no health-care reform, no tax reform, no entitlement reform will matter.”
The Cheneys are correct that the defense of America is the highest priority of our federal government. But fiscal responsibility is also a high priority, especially when our public debt (on which we pay interest) now stands at 77% of GDP, the largest it has been since the end of WWII, and rising.
So the real question is: how large should our defense budget be to provide for a secure defense of our national interests? A recent article in the New York Times points out that:
- Our current defense budget of $596 billion is more than the total of the next seven highest defense budgets combined.
- We have 1.3 million active duty troops with 200,000 deployed in more than 170 countries.
- The U.S. has 2,200 fighter jets, 193 of which are fifth generation, F-35 Lightening II aircraft.
- The U.S. Navy has 275 surface ships and submarines, including 11 aircraft carriers, far more than any other single country.
Conclusion. The current U.S. military force is large and diversified. In fact there is strong evidence that it could operate more efficiently. It is more than adequate to defend our crucial national interests.