President Obama Holding National Security Hostage to Social Spending Agenda
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to question Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the President’s FY15 budget request for defense. The President’s budget puts America’s military on the path to the smallest Army since 1940, smallest Navy since before World War I, and smallest Air Force ever. As a policy dreamed up by the President’s Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, “sequestration” – across-the-board budget cuts – has progressively devastated our military’s combat readiness capability. I know this firsthand. As a Navy reservist, my E-2C Hawkeye squadron was eliminated because of budget cuts. Under sequestration’s twisted logic, national security gets 50% of the cuts even though defense spending comprises only 18% of the total budget.
The President’s budget includes a so-called $56 billion Opportunity, Security & Growth Initiative (OSGI) – split evenly between national security and non-defense discretionary spending. Our military could sure use another $26 billion to fully erase sequestration. Here’s the problem: It’s a package deal. The President won’t give us one without the other. Our core Constitutional responsibility – providing for the common defense – is held hostage to appropriating another $30 billion in social spending. The non-defense OSGI includes money for Promise Zones, “community assistance”, juvenile justice grants, national park restoration, and teacher training. I believe that my colleagues are ready and willing to CUT non-essential programs to enhance our national security in a deficit neutral way. Yet, this President will not permit the Congress prioritize defense without more spending on “redesigning high schools” and climate change research.