Romney Is Right: We Do Need To Increase Defense Spending

Neil King, Jr., writing in the October 8-9 Wall Street Journal, “Romney Calls for Defense Boost”, apparently believes that a speech by a pro-defense candidate for national office needs it own simultaneous rebuttal which he tries mightily to give us. But Mr. King gets his criticism wrong in every respect.

First, Mr. King apparently does not understand how defense spending can be increased by $30 billion a year as Governor Romney proposes, while other spending declines. It’s called setting priorities.

Second, Mr. King says there have been no defense cuts under this administration, as a rebuke to Mr. Romney’s concern with “massive defense cuts”. Again. King is wrong. He even admits defense is projected to decline by at least 6% over the next five year defense agreement which is precisely the $30 billion a year Mr. Romney would add back into the defense budget of the United States.

Third, defense spending is projected to decline even more than the funds Romney wants to add back into the defense budget. For example, in the 2009 budget, the administration cut $330 billion in weapons acquisition. In 2011, another $175 billion was cut under the guideline of “efficiencies”. And in August, the administration insisted that another $450 billion over the next ten years be eliminated from defense and security spending as part of the new debt limitation agreement. That comes to nearly $1 trillion in defense cuts.

Fourth, all of this does not include the potential for another $600 billion that could be cut from defense if sequestration occurs, a doomsday possibility the administration insisted be part of the debt deal as a backdoor means of blackmailing Congress to massively increase taxes as an alternative.

It should be noted that over the 8 year period from 2009-2016, the February budget ten year plan of the administration shows that defense, the coast guard portion of homeland security, veterans, some state department work, and the nuclear weapons portion of the energy department rose only $50 billion from their FY2009 base. That does not even cover the cost of inflation and hardly constitutes the source of the more than $1 trillion annual increase in the deficit for the past three years.

Fifth, the defense base budget will come in for Fiscal Year 2012 at somewhere between $500-510 billion, roughly the numbers now agreed to by the Senate and House Defense Appropriations Subcommittees, a reduction of $20 billion from the FY2011 baseline. Defense spending as a percent of GDP averaged 5.3% over the past half century, but now the projected spending will fall to just over 3%, half the level at the height of the Cold War and a third of the level at the height of Vietnam.

Sixth, while the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq and other global counter terrorist efforts would add another $118 billion to FY2012 spending, this cost is both $40 billion lower than FY2012, another fact Mr. King neglects to tell his readers, and projected to decline rapidly.

Mr. King quotes former Governor and Ambassador Huntsman as equating more defense spending with more “military entanglements”, making sure the Journal’s readers draw the proper conclusions from Mr. Romney’s remarks. However, Mr. King forgets his history, so intent is he on slamming Mr. Romney. Is Mr. King unfamiliar with the notion of “deterrence”? Can he give us past examples of where America’s military strength invited attack?

In reality, there are numerous times when American weakness invited attack. For example, in 1949, the US Congress cut the defense budget request of President Truman from $11 billion to $7 billion. By one vote, Congress also turned down providing the Republic of Korea economic and military assistance of $150 million.

At the time, our intelligence community, too, reassured the country that no war in the Far East was probable. They assured the White House that the Soviet Union and China had to coordinate an attack by North Korea for it to go forward and they had no such interest in doing so. So why not cut defense? Sound familiar?

On June 25, 1950, communist North Korea aided by Communist China and Stalin’s Soviet Union, invaded the Republic of Korea. America, unprepared to act, having failed to sustain a modern military, nevertheless came to the assistance of Seoul. The cost was needlessly high. Thirty five thousand American soldiers perished along with millions of Koreans.

Seventh, Mr. King tries to gain support for his bias against Mr. Romney by imputing to the tea party an anti-defense spending fervor. Wrong again, Mr. King. Polls just completed for the Committee for the Common Defense show self-designated tea party supporters overwhelmingly support sustaining and modernizing our US national security capability, including stopping the defense cuts being proposed. They are also more concerned with state-run terrorism than other Americans and more willing to spend what is necessary to defeat it.

When eighteen, I lived in Korea as a college student, one of only a handful of American students to do so over the past century. My Korean host in 1969-70 was also my professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. Hahm Pyong Chun eventually became national security adviser the President of the country. Tragically, he was murdered by North Korea in a terrorist attack in Burma. He always said the North would stop at nothing to reunify the peninsula by force. “We must remain vigilant”, he warned me.

At the end of last year, the highest ranking defector from North Korea, and a former tutor of Kim Jong Il, passed away. He was given a state funeral in Seoul. In an interview before his death with a now retired USAF American general officer, he warned that Kim Jong Il, the murderous dictator that runs the North Korean gulag, had developed nuclear weapons to aid another invasion of the south.

A number of recent proposals to cut defense, from organizations on the right–CATO-and on the left–Institute for Policy Studies–include withdrawing US forces from Asia, including the ROK. Should that happen warned Professor Hahm to me some 40 years ago, the North would attack. Now they can use the threat of nuclear weapons to keep the US from coming to the aid of its ally in Seoul.

Mr. Romney also proposed that we deploy a “full national ballistic missile defense system”, a very wise investment given the current missile threat from North Korea and the emerging threat from Iran. Right now we have 30 missile defense interceptors deployed in Alaska and California to defend against that threat, a reduction from the original planned force of over fifty.

Mr. Romney proposes to build an updated, second generation missile defense for the entire US continent, as the current system does not adequately defend the US east coast nor the gulf region, especially from maritime missile threats that could carry EMP, electromagnetic pulse, type nuclear warheads.

Two Congressional Commissions and numerous other professional analyses have called for such defenses as this threat remains unaddressed. Mr. Romney proposes closing that window of vulnerability. A good thing.

Mr. King may think such proposals are “”dramatic”. Perhaps they are. But if I remember my history, there is indeed something there in the Constitution: “Provide for the Common Defense”. Remember Mr. King? If you don’t, obviously Mr. Romney does.

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