By Armin Rosen
This week, President Obama's deficit commission proposed around $150 billion in defense cuts, including a 10 percent cut in research and development and the redeployment of a third of all American troops stationed in Europe and Asia.
But at the Foreign Policy Initiative's annual conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.)—likely incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee—offered some counter-programming to the idea that the military budget is trimmable.
McKeon argued that increased defense spending was vital to national interest, taking a near-apocalyptic stance on any possible reductions in defense spending: "A defense budget in decline portends an America in decline" he argued, before stating that even a proposed 1 percent increase in defense spending over the next five years was tantamount to a spending cut. For McKeon, even an inadequate increase in defense spending signals the abdication of America's leadership in the world: “Growing our alliances will place an increased demand on hard power" he said, explaining how failing to keep pace with the rate of China or Iran's military growth will convince potential allies to align with countries that view the U.S. as a competitor or even an enemy.
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Sharp eyes might spy a self-interested motive behind this view of American power. According to McKeon, America is only as powerful as its military, whose budgetary needs are partly shaped by the same House Armed Services Committee that McKeon will soon head. Furthermore, McKeon's military-spending-equals-national-greatness tack assumes that greater defense spending always produces a stronger military and, by extension, a stronger United States. But in the latest issue of The New Republic, Reason contributor Gregg Easterbrook explains [$] that defense spending increases have a lot to do with pork, corporate welfare and costly politically-motivated R&D projects. Reason writers have also noted the problems of untouchable defense pork here, here, and here.