Congressional debate over the defense budget has set Republicans in the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) against the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta endorsed the president’s proposed base budget, House Republicans are fighting for an additional $4 billion in funding and $8 billion above caps set by the Budget Control Act.
On Friday, House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) took to Fox News, claiming that the budget cuts endorsed by, among others, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey would undermine U.S. national security:
FORBES: If you listen to what the Navy says, it will reduce the number of ships in our navy down to the lowest level in a hundred years. […] But worse than that is that fact that, for the first time, we’re moving dangerously close to not being able to guarantee the security of the United States of America. And I don’t think the American people want us to be there.
Watch the clip:
But Forbes’ argument for higher defense spending is undermined by the facts. Politifact examined the argument about the reduction in naval ships, and concluded that:
[A] wide range of experts told us it’s wrong to assume that a decline in the number of ships or aircraft automatically means a weaker military. Quite the contrary: The United States is the world’s unquestioned military leader today, not just because of the number of ships and aircraft in its arsenal but also because each is stocked with top-of-the-line technology and highly trained personnel.
Thanks to the development of everything from nuclear weapons to drones, comparing today’s military to that of 60 to 100 years ago presents an egregious comparison of apples and oranges.
And the Center for American Progress’s Lawrence J. Korb, Melissa Boteach and Max Hoffman looked at the Republican defense budget proposal and found that strategic cuts to our defense budget, including reducing our nuclear stockpile, can be implemented without undermining national security. In an issue brief earlier this year, Korb and Alex Rothman observed that budget cuts could save $600 billion over a decade without undermining national security. “Unnecessary defense spending does not make our nation safer,” they wrote.
While Republicans claim that budget cuts would damage national security, keeping the defense budget sequestration cuts — which for FY 2013 would limit the budget to $472 billion — would allow the Pentagon to spend at its 2007 level, a year in which even defense hawks weren’t complaining about the budget being too low, for the next decade. This budget would keep real defense spending above the Cold War average, a period in which the U.S. faced a genuine existential threat from the Soviet Union.
Today, Forbes kicks off the “Defending our Defenders” tour in which House Republicans will hold town-hall events across the country in a push to persuade voters to oppose defense cuts and support GOP efforts to boost the coming year’s defense budget. They face an uphill battle. Polling data released last week shows that 65 percent of American think defense spending is already too high.