Commentary Magazine


House Republicans Find Their Voices in Defense of Defense Budget

It’s good to hear House Republicans finding their voices in defense of the defense budget. As the notes, leading House figures including Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Reps. Randy Forbes and Allen West held a press conference to denounce as “incredible” and “unconscionable” (in West’s words) the sweeping defense budget cuts proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid–cuts that would go double the already indefensible $400 billion in cuts pushed by President Obama.

West, a former army lieutenant colonel and Iraq War vet, noted on a recent visit with the troops, “I heard some things that really sent a chill down my spine…. Commanders told me that we’re starting to have to budget toilet paper into the barracks.” In other words, the military is already facing a budget crunch; further cuts will exacerbate the situation and make it impossible to carry out the armed forces’ vital missions.

I only hope Republicans will keep that perspective in mind as they deal with further budget cuts on the horizon. With a debt-ceiling package now seemingly in the last stages of negotiation (although things could always come undone), Congress faces the prospect of massive cuts in the very near future. National Journal reports the current agreement being ironed out would call for $2.8 trillion in budget cuts during the next decade–$1 billion immediately in discretionary spending cuts and another $1.8 billion by the fall as agreed to by a “super committee.” If that “super committee” doesn’t reach agreement, that would trigger automatic cuts that could include defense spending and Medicare. Defense spending is already being reduced; there will be a temptation to make those cuts much deeper so as to hit arbitrary budget targets, and damn the consequences.

That would be a big mistake, for as Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nominee to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned the Senate,  it would be “extraordinarily difficult and very high risk” to cut defense by $800 billion as envisioned by Harry Reid. While the Reid bill appears dead for the time being, cuts of those levels could still be revived–unless Republicans hold firm.