Military Spending Discussion Set for Next Week

The so-called Supercommittee only kicked off yesterday but already one of its members, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), has threatened to quit if military spending is included in the search for savings.

[Kyl] told GOP leaders, “I’m off the committee” if further military cuts would be on the table.

“We’re not going there,” Kyl said sternly,…“Defense has given enough already.”

Such comments reflect a general lack of knowledge about the actual size of the U.S.military budget relative to the rest of the world, and an inattention to the growth of that spending over the past 10-12 years. And, contrary to what Senator Kyl and others claim, the military’s budget still hasn’t been cut. We will spend more in 2011, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than at any time since World War II.

And that really is the point. Why are we spending so much? Because we ask our military to do too much. We should place fewer demands on our troops and recognize that our spending and our foreign policy discourages other countries from doing more. Declaring military spending off limits before the Supercommittee even begins its work reveals a shocking unwillingness to reconsider the roles and missions that drive military spending.

I will stress that theme next Tuesday, September 13th, during a panel discussion moderated by Major Garrett of National Journal that will address DoD spending over the past 10 years, and also consider a path forward within an environment of fiscal austerity. Other speakers include Janne Nolan with the American Security Project, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin, Larry Korb from the Center for American Progress, Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, and Truman National Security Project Vice President Michael Breen  The event will take place at the Capitol Visitors Center at 2:00 PM. It is open to the public, but space is limited. To learn more and to register, visit here.

Senator Kyl notwithstanding, I hope that the rest of the Supercommittee will take their obligations seriously. The federal government is capable of getting its fiscal house in order, but the politicians can’t afford to postpone the hard decisions any longer. It simply isn’t realistic to believe that we can reduce total federal spending while declaring more than 50 percent of the discretionary budget to be off limits.