The foremost obligation of the federal government is to provide for the safety of the American people. Yet as the budget debate continues, it’s becoming increasingly clear that certain politicians want to trim the defense budget in order to repurpose money for social entitlement programs, such as health care reform, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. A new white paper, titled “Warning: Hollow Force Ahead,” which has just been released by the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative, warns of the negative consequences of a thinner defense.

Providing for the common defense of the American people and our homeland is the primary responsibility of policymakers in Washington,” the authors write. But President Obama, who recently trimmed the defense budget by $400 billion, “wants to do much more when it comes to cutting defense.” For example: “This week, Obama praised the latest in a series of plans to cut military spending by roughly $900 billion or more. He said the most recent plan that proposes cutting $886 billion from defense is ‘broadly consistent’ with his own approach for getting the countrys finances under control.” And, the authors warn, this is “a floor—rather than … a ceiling—for reductions to baseline defense spending.”

The problems with a lean defense are many. Consider the fact that U.S. troops are currently engaged in military engagements in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, while humanitarian troops have provided help in Japan and Haiti, as well as numerous other commitments around the world.

“The demand for military personnel may not decline,” the authors write. It’s hard to predict where and when U.S. forces will be needed next, and a lean military would certainly restrict the U.S. from furthering its interests abroad.

And the equipment the military does have is currently out of date. "The Pentagon has nearly skipped a generation of modernization programs while, at the same time, failing to 'transform' U.S. forces for the future. The defense budget growth of the past decade was largely on consumables related to current operations. All of the defense cuts over the past two years mortgaged the future to pay for the present."

Read the whole thing here.

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