While the Congress was making their showmanship reading of the Constitution today, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a series of cost-saving measures for the United States military and defense department. Some members of Congress (especially those whose districts benefit from military spending) were quick to criticize, since it seems the defense is the one place were instituting budget savings is unimaginable. With the debt recently creeping over the 14 trillion dollar mark, I applaud the Department of Defense for taking a little bit of the cuts too.
Obviously we need to pay for the defense and security of our country. It is an assumed cost of freedom. However, the military has been known for its excess in spending, and along with entitlements is one of the largest public expenditures we have. I won't provide one of the popular laundry list of examples like thousand dollar toilets purchased on the taxpayer dime, but certainly there are opportunities where cuts could be made without hurting our defense in any way. If we are going to take our spending problem seriously, we must find a way to maximize the efficiency of our money. Gates acknowledged this idea with the billions of dollar savings, saying it's about time we catch up by forgoing the "culture of endless money" and entering a "culture of savings and restraint."
I agree with him. Today's announcement is a modest change for the military, identified by the leaders who keep us safe. If they think they can do without, I trust them on that one. These are not flat-out budget cuts, but eliminating the overindulgence and inefficiency that has plagued our entire budget for years. They make our military budget more effective for what we pay for it, and begin the process of de-politicizing the serious task of defending our nation.
As stated before, Congressmen are quick to jump on military cuts, saying they weaken the national defense. What they really mean by that is that they weaken their guarantee of a reelection. Military spending is a great earmark to bring home to the constituents, one that will score you a lot of political points. But something is wrong with this. The military has documented cases where they asked not to continue developing certain tools or equipment, but earmarks mandated that they continue anyways. Should our defense and security be corrupted by political games? Let's provide the military with the tools they need and want, and accept when they tell us that some things are no longer necessary.
The fight brewing gets down to the fundamental purpose of the military: to defend our freedoms abroad and at home. With a debt at unsustainable levels, we will soon be running out of things for the military to protect. Our freedom is at stake domestically, and we are more concerned about shoving more money down the throats of our defense department so our politicians can be reelected. We need a strong defense, but it doesn't have to come at the expense of our livelihood: that's just contradictory. And "politics as usual." I think we can trust Secretary Gates on this one. He has the leadership experience, as well as the brains to know how much is too much. Now if only we had more of that elsewhere in the government...