The U.S. is about to become embroiled in a debate over its role in the world. That discussion, which will unfold with the release of President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal will nominally be about how much America should spend on defense. But the real issue is what role the U.S. wants to play in the world. Do we need, or want to continue to be the predominate force on the world stage? How important is it to our prosperity and security to be in a position to substantially control world events?
America spends plenty on defense, nearly $600 billion annually. A lot of money any way you look at it, but as a percentage of our annual gross domestic product ($ 18 trillion in 2015) defense spending is just a bit over 3%, which seems not at all excessive a price to pay to maintain our nation’s security and the security of that massive economy.
In constant dollars, defense spending has has actually declined from $768 billion in 2010 to $595 billion in 2015 — the fastest drawdown, percentage-wise, in many decades. As a result of the decline in net spending, we are asking our active duty and reserve men and women to perform at a higher “operating tempo” than they and their equipment can reasonably sustain. Ships and aircraft which should be in active service sit idle, awaiting deferred maintenance and replacement. Personnel serve long, arduous deployments away from their families. Sure, that is the job they signed up for (as we all did), but retaining valuable people in the face of this kind of service will become more and more difficult.
We hear quite a lot about how the government is short changing Veteran care and rightly so, but the Congress is equally tight about seeing that those now serving have what they need to perform the daunting tasks they are given. We, the people of the United States of America, in the persons of our elected representatives, must decide what our role in the world needs and is to be, and fund the necessary armed force accordingly.
If you are interested in a further analysis of this subject, read: “Seven Deadly Myths of U.S. Defense Spending” By Hal Brands, the source of much of this piece. It can be found on the following Bloomberg News link: https:// www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-02-28/seven-deadly-myths-of-u-s-defense-spending Hal Brands is the Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
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