House Republicans have passed their plan to avoid cuts to the defense budget. And the House Armed Services Committee, under Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon’s (R-CA) leadership, even boosted the budget by $8 billion. Neither Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey nor Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had requested the larger budget and new polling data shows that 65 percent of Americans think defense spending is already too high.
But while the military’s leadership and the American public are all opposed to the House Republicans’ ballooned defense budget — which includes a $5 billion missile defense project described by Dempsey as totally unnecessary — Armed Services Committee member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) took to CNN this morning to pushback against the critics of the proposed budget. Forbes was asked about the polling data and responded:
Do [the American public] really want a reduction in capacity? I think when they hear the president and many people over in the Senate talking about the fact that they can have some of these cuts but still maintain the security of the United States I think any of us would want those reductions. But I think when you ask the American people ‘Do they really want to reduce the security of the United States of America?’ I think the answer comes back they don’t. They want to make sure that we’re maintaining and guaranteeing that security.
But Forbes’ questions were answered yesterday. Panetta warned that ignoring the spending blueprint submitted by himself and Dempsey, as the Congressional Republicans have done, could actually hurt national security. He told reporters:
If members try to restore their favorite programs without regard to an overall strategy, the cuts will have to come from areas that could impact overall readiness. There is no free lunch here. Every dollar that is added will have to be offset by cuts in national security.
And the polling data showed that Americans are surprised by the size of discretionary defense spending when viewed alongside discretionary spending for other budget items. “This suggests that Americans generally underestimate the size of the defense budget and that when they receive balanced information about its size they are more likely to cut it to reduce the deficit,” said Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation.