Sunday, December 9, 2012

Simpson Bowles: Defense Cuts and Why We Need Them

The Simpson-Bowles plan, which we mentioned in yesterday's post, calls for deep cuts in defense spending, and for good reason.  Defense spending makes up a significant portion of the nation's overall budget, and that share is even larger when we only look at discretionary spending.  This makes the Department of Defense a prime candidate for budget cuts.

Military spending has also ballooned in recent years because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Both these conflicts have increased the amount the United States spends on the military and each has had a significant effect of the debt of the nation.  In the figure below, we can see the gradual increase in spending after September 11th, until Obama's military budget freeze.

Spending this much money just doesn't seem like a valid use of resources.  The US military must learn to be more efficient with how it uses its money.  Other countries all around the world, though they do not have the same military capabilities and presence of the United States, spend far less than us on defense.  The United States is far and away the largest military spender in the world.  It's time it took a step back and found more efficient ways to do things.
While military spending certainly helps US businesses grow and make profits, the amount the military spends is showing up less and less in actual changes to our GDP.  Therefore, the value in trimming debt is going to be a far greater positive than the effect of any growth maintaining the spending levels might cause.  

We can afford to make these defense cuts, and we will not be weaker as a nation because of them.  While we might deploy less soldiers and fighter jets around the world, we can still be the most powerful military in the world.  We spend so much, that cutting a bit probably won't make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Also, a ballooning federal debt is also a national security risk, and endangers to solvency of our entire nation.  It is in our country's best interests to find ways to reduce debt, and cutting unnecessary defense spending is one way to do that.  As a part of a balanced approach, reforming the Pentagon budget is necessary in any negotiations regarding the fiscal cliff.

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