Conservative Icon Norquist: ‘I Wouldn’t Ask Ryan To Be The Reformer’ Of Defense Spending

In a bid to get the federal deficit under control, the Obama administration proposed cutting the bloated defense budget by nearly $500 billion. But the Repbulican presidential ticket — while sharing the goal of reducing the national debt — wants to keep military spending high. Mitt Romney , for his part, wants to boost spening by $2 trillion over the next decade, without explaining how he would trim the debt while doing so. Romney’s vice presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has a reputation for being an even bigger fiscal hawk than the candidate himself, also plans to reduce the size of the obama administration’s military budget cuts.

But one of the country’s top conservative icons, who has, like Ryan, made reducing government spending his top goal, doesn’t have much faith that the vice presidential pick would do much to trim bloated defense spending. That’s what Grover Norquist, the head of American’s for Tax Reform, told an audience at the Center for the National Interest on Monday. Norquist was clear that, contra claims by Republican hakws and some in the defense industry, that national security would not be jeopardized by significantly reducing military budgets. He told the crowd:

We can afford to have an adequate national defense which keeps us free and safe and keeps everybody afraid to throw a punch at us, as long as we don’t make some of the decisions that previous administrations have, which is to over extend ourselves overseas and think we can run foreign governments….

Other people need to lead the argument on how can conservatives lead a fight to have a serious national defense without wasting money. I wouldn’t ask Ryan to be the reformer of the defense establishment.

Many Republicans agree with Norquist that fears about budget cuts to the military often amount to “hysteria.” But Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are not among them.


The GOP ticket has instead sought to make reversing Obamna administration cuts the centerpiece of their national security platform, including the further automatic cuts known as “sequestration” that will come into effect if Congress can’t agree to other ways to trim the budget. Combining Romney’s plan to peg defense spending at 4 percent of GDP, and Ryan’s plan to cap all government discreationary spending at 4 percent of GDP, the military could be about the only thing thing the government spends money on, a potnetial “radical remaking of the federal government.”

But even sequestration wouldn’t be as devastating as it seems. The Congressional Budget Office found that, after the automatic cuts, military spending would still be at 2006 levels.