Dig down in the comments on another post and you’ll find some strong arguments being made for drastic cuts in the Navy and other services to help improve America’s balance sheet for the long haul. Clearly, restoring the health of the economy is a national security issue, but reports on the economy are vulnerable to hyperbole and predictions on how long the current downturn will last vary.
While the economy is in fact weak, in an environment where bad economic news makes good headlines, sells newspaper and drives traffic to media outlets, and economic issues and proposed remedies are highly politicized, it is challenging to objectively weigh economic issues against other national security issues. Unemployment is rising, several major industries are in genuine crisis and consumer confidence is low, but many of the key metrics grabbing headlines have been worse in the post-Depression period, yet did not require massive government intervention or austerity measures to correct. The less politicized economists seem to be predicting the recession will last another 12-18 months, with a few predicting as long as 24-36 months.
We also appear to be seeing a rebalancing in security challenges. The war in Iraq is drawing down, and while resources must be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan, it’s not unreasonable to believe America’s commitments to “boots on the ground” in far away lands will decrease on the order of 30 to 50 thousand troops over the next two years. Meanwhile, maritime challenges are on the upswing and global maritime presence and engagement is becoming a more pressing requirement to maintain the free flow of trade and regional stability.
So, given the situation America faces at home and abroad, three questions come to mind:
- Are the current economic problems significant enough to make the economy America’s #1 security problem and warrant substantial reductions in defense spending?
- Does the current plan to build the end strength of the Army and Marine Corps need to be reconsidered?
- Should defense dollars be reallocated among the services to give higher priority to resurgent naval threats and maritime security initiatives?
What say you?
[Update1] Looks like somebody at CBO may already be saying “yes” to question #2:
The Congressional Budget Office prepared some budget alternatives for Congress to deal with defense budget shortfalls.
The alternative budget…proposes increasing enrollment fees and copayments for military retirees using the defense health care system and a reduction in Army and Marine Corps personnel.
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