Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Debt Deal and the Threat to America's National Security

Ambassador John Bolton
By Amb. John Bolton
Published August 01, 2011

Serious questions remain about the national security implications of the proposed deal to raise the federal debt ceiling. With members of Congress essentially being asked to vote immediately to avoid defaulting on the national debt, they are also entitled to immediate and compelling answers to the defense-related questions.

For fiscal year 2012 and 2013, cuts in defense spending remain uncertain, with reductions as much as three percent below last year’s level still possible. Depending on the outcome of further negotiations over the size and allocation of those reductions, these cuts alone may well be quite harmful. The best that can be said is that, for these fiscal years, the issue is still unresolved.

Over the longer term, the outlook is almost certainly much more disturbing. In the deal’s second stage, the yet-to-be-named Congressional Joint Commission will have wide discretion on what to agree on, but if no agreement or only partial agreement is reached, the deal’s sequestration mechanism will be triggered. Broadly speaking, if that happens, defense spending will bear fifty percent of the total cuts, with non-defense spending bearing the remaining fifty percent, up to the amount necessary to raise the debt ceiling by the minimum $ 2.4 trillion required by the deal. This approach risks grave damage to our national security.

There is no strategic rationale whatsoever for cuts of this magnitude. There is, in fact, every strategic rationale to the contrary. While the appropriations process may still be able to decide which specific programs will be cut, this is no consolation. Cuts of this size are effectively indiscriminate.

Defense spending is not just another wasteful government program. Subjecting it to potentially massive, debilitating cuts is rolling the dice in perilous times internationally. Adam Smith himself wrote in "The Wealth of Nations": “the first duty of the sovereign” [is] “protecting the society from the violence and invasion” of others.

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