President Obama’s budget cuts defense by $487 billion over the next ten years. Furthermore, the president has not led an effort to avoid an additional $500 billion of cuts under the so-called “sequestration,” which will likely result in what Obama’s secretary of defense predicts will be “smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.”
But instead of following the president’s path, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan chose to lead. He proposed a budget last week that actually increases defense in real terms each year—“[it puts] defense first among government’s priorities while simultaneously lifting the debt burden and ensuring a more prosperous America would enable the nation to afford a modernized military that is properly sized for the breadth of the challenges America faces,” the proposal states.
And today, the Republican Study Committee released its own budget that matches the defense numbers in Ryan’s budget, even though it slashes discretionary more drastically than the House Budget Committee’s proposal. Both budgets show that being the party of fiscal discipline doesn’t mean giving up the GOP’s traditional role as the party of national security.
These budgets put the mainstream Republican party squarely in line with the party’s Reaganesque tradition of peace through strength.
In an address to the nation in March 1983, President Ronald Reagan told the nation that the budget he had recently submitted to Congress “has been trimmed to the limits of safety. Further deep cuts cannot be made without seriously endangering the security of the nation. The choice is up to the men and women you've elected to the Congress, and that means the choice is up to you.”
Ryan, as well as Rep. Scott Garrett and Rep. Jim Jordan, who are responsible for the Republican Study Committee proposal, and other leaders in the House have risen to the challenge and chosen to fund defense adequately and avoid the devastating impact of sequestration. After the House votes on the Ryan budget this week, it will be up to the White House and Senate Democrats to choose between continued American leadership in the world or decline.
As Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey recently told Congress, “In my personal military judgment, formed over 38 years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime right now.” Let’s hope they choose wisely and that voters hold them accountable in November if they fail to defend defense.