Should we really be up in arms over a temporary projected shortfall of about 100 Navy and Marine strike fighters relative to the number of carrier wings when America's military possesses more than 3,200 tactical combat aircraft of all kinds? Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined, 11 of which belong to allies and partners? Is it a dire threat that by 2020 the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China? Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Dear Mr. President,
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has proposed cuts to the defense budget that would amount to a savings of $100 billion over five years. This is, predictably, leading to more than a little hysteria from conservatives on the hill. Senator Saxby Chambliss (demonstrating exactly why the Senate has gone from somber, dignified statesmen to cartoonish, angry old men who are difficult to take seriously) actually claimed that the White House is "willing to sacrifice the lives of American military men and women for the sake of domestic programs." As though cutting 100 billion of a 3.5 trillion budget is going to cost lives. As though lives are not depending upon essential domestic programs. I'm not sure I ever had much respect for Mr. Chambliss, but he certainly isn't demonstrating the kind of tempered wisdom that I'd expect from a member of the US Senate. (Yes, I managed to keep a straight face while typing that last sentence.)
Concern for the deficit is perfectly reasonable. The necessary cuts to spending must be applied across the board and the defense budget should be no exception. There can be no incentive for a more peaceful world when so much of our economy and our federal budget is tied up in the tools of war. Al-Queda pulled off 9/11 with 19 plane tickets and 99-cent box cutters. In this world, there is no amount of money that can ever make us completely safe. We have to have a smarter and more modernized military, and that is exactly what Secretary Gates is proposing. We have to look for alternative ways to defend ourselves; all the weapons money can buy won't do us half as much good as better diplomatic relations, stable global allies and more education at home and abroad. We simply cannot kill our way to a more peaceful world.
I applaud Secretary Gates' efforts to curtail the reckless defense spending that has plagued the federal budget for decades. In a time when congress cites budget issues as cause to hold up funding for treating 9/11 responders' lingering health problems, extending unemployment benefits that sustain individuals and families through the recession, or even ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable healthcare, how can we justify spending so much money on an outdated defense strategy? The way we spend our money reflects our values as a society, and, clearly, those need to be reexamined. Mr. President, please don't allow the hysterics from conservatives to prevent Mr. Gates from implementing these necessary cuts.