On Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated on Fox News that he will try to prevent additional spending cuts to the military budget. This comment was made in light of the current debate over the deficit deal. If Congress fails to reach an agreement on deficit reduction by November 23, automatic cuts totaling over $1 trillion would be triggered. Of this sum, $400 million would come from the military’s budget, a budget that totaled $669 billion for 2010. Graham wants to reduce the impact of these already insignificant budget cuts even further. This goal, however, is not in keeping with the conservative rhetoric on reducing the size of the government or the federal government’s ability to create jobs.
Conservatives as of late have made much of making deep cuts to many government programs. Considering the amount of government funding going towards the military, it would certainly seem logical for conservatives to push for military cuts. But that isn’t the case. Graham isn’t the only conservative who doesn’t want the military to take deep cuts. Reps. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and others wrote in late July that America needed “to draw a line in the sand” over defense cuts. They posit that allowing more cuts to the defense budget will put our nation at greater risk.
Given the considerable advantage we enjoy in naval superiority and overall defense systems, it is hard to imagine how $400 million in military cuts could make us vulnerable to some sort of full frontal assault. Our navy, according to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, “is still larger than the next 13 navies combined-and 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies or partners.” And given the non-traditional nature of the threats facing the U.S., it seems unlikely that there aren’t more programs that couldn’t stand to see cuts.
This is a common theme amongst conservatives who rail against potential deep cuts to the military. Any cuts would simply endanger America. During his presidency, Reagan closed down redundant military bases to reduce the budget; it seems that Reagan's example has been lost on current conservatives. His administration created the BRAC method of closing bases that avoided congressional committees, where the process of a base closure often stalled in the past. The most recent round of base closures using BRAC took place in 2005 under the Bush administration. So it is not as though there aren’t recent examples of conservatives making a point to cut areas of the military budget.
Given the prominence of the Tea Party as a force within the Republican Party, it seems strange that conservatives would not be more committed to reducing the budget and size of the military. After all, one of the themes within the Tea Party movement is a return to the intentions of the founders. Many seem to forget that the founders were actually against a large standing army, or even a professional military for that matter. This is part of the reason given in Federalist No. 26 for why the power to levy an army rests with Congress, so the need of a force would be debated once every two years. Also, any force put together would take time to organize as a result of congressional control. Conventional wisdom held, and still does, that a country with a large, professional military would be more likely to use that military. Some members of the Tea Party certainly recognize this, chief among them Ron Paul, and advocate reductions for the military. But the same fervent call seems to be missing amongst the majority of conservatives of all types.
This begs the question, then, of why there is such an attachment to military spending. Perhaps these congressmen are truly concerned about America’s safety. Or maybe they are more concerned about their respective states losing jobs as a result of military budgets. After all, $669 billion does go a long way towards creating jobs. This would put many conservatives in a tough position, as the Republican party remains adamant that the federal government cannot create jobs through spending. If conservatives were to admit publicly that they opposed such cuts because of their impact on job stimulation, they would have a harder time justifying many of the cuts they helped create this past summer. So what do you think: Are conservatives really that concerned about America’s security? Or do they simply want to protect federally created jobs within their states?
Photo Credit: The U.S. Army