Our guest blogger is Sarah Jacobs, an intern with the National Security team at the Center for American Progress.The Obama administration released its request for the FY 2011 defense budget last month. The requested $708.3 billion represents a more than tripling in spending from 1997, bringing our defense budget to an historic high, surpassing the Reagan era buildup, Vietnam, and higher than even the peak during the Korean War, a peak which we’ve been over for the past seven years.
This dangerous trend of building off the base of the previous year’s budget is unsustainable and not, as many think, inevitable. While national security must be the number one priority for the United States, a point that Obama has made repeatedly, defense dollars are unrestrained and lend further to the fears of an exploding deficit and a far too limited United States.
Never has there been a more important time to emphasize fiscal discipline. There is no legal reason that the defense budget should be exempt from the discretionary freeze. Congress should examine the defense budget and find where things can realistically and safely be reduced. Our troops deserve every dollar they need to remain safe and to accomplish our mission; but there are places that the budget can be slimmed down to better reflect our current threats of the 21st century. We must ensure that defense dollars are effective and focused and held accountable like all other parts of the budget.
Defense spending has been unconstrained for a decade, reaching higher than ever amounts. These increases have not been rebalanced or traded off. The Obama administration needs to seek clarity and reexamine what is being spent where. And while certainly no compromises are being struck to balance spending, the spending is raised disparately and with little explanation why.
We need to see where we can realistically cut back. For example, we do not need to grow military force when we are planning on drawing down numbers from our current conflicts. There is currently no arraying the budget by mission. The Department of Defense has no specific data on their spending. There needs to be better military and DOD priority setting like the successful drawdown from 1989-1995. Read more