Wednesday, 23 September 2020
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Barack Obama

By Baker Spring

Providing for the defense of the United States is the federal government's most important responsibility, and it is predominantly a federal responsibility that in most areas should not be delegated to lower echelons of government or to the private sector. Yet these truths seem to be missing from the Obama Administration's fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request.

The Administration has requested a $702.8 billion defense budget for FY 2012, which is at least $36.5 billion below the estimated FY 2011 budget—a reduction of roughly 5 percent in nominal dollars or 6.4 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars.

The Administration's five-year budget projection makes the misplaced priorities even more evident. In real dollars, the FY 2016 defense budget will be 13 percent below the estimated FY 2011 budget. This contrasts with a 17 percent increase in Medicare and a 16 percent increase in Social Security over the same period in real dollars. (See Chart 1.)

This pattern of fiscal restraint on core defense programs, but fiscal profligacy on entitlement (or mandatory) spending has been evident since the federal government took a "peace dividend" after the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet in today's budget debates against the backdrop of ballooning national debt and deficits and the tight economy, people too often point to defense spending as the culprit. It is not, as Secretary Robert Gates has explained:

Defense is not like other discretionary spending. This is something we've got to do and that we have a responsibility to do. And so the two shouldn't be equated. They have not been equated in the past. I mean, that's why they call it non-defense discretionary spending and so on.

...I got it that we've got a $1.6 trillion deficit. But defense is not a significant part of that problem. If you took a 10 percent cut in defense, which would be catastrophic in terms of capabilities, that would be $50 billion on a $1.6 trillion deficit.

Yet too many Members of Congress are not listening. There are growing calls on both sides of the political aisle to cut defense across the board, just like other discretionary programs.

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By George Friedman, Stratfor

In my book "The Next Decade," I spend a good deal of time considering the relation of the American Empire to the American Republic and the threat the empire poses to the republic. If there is a single point where these matters converge, it is in the constitutional requirement that Congress approve wars through a declaration of war and in the abandonment of this requirement since World War II. This is the point where the burdens and interests of the United States as a global empire collide with the principles and rights of the United States as a republic.

World War II was the last war the United States fought with a formal declaration of war. The wars fought since have had congressional approval, both in the sense that resolutions were passed and that Congress appropriated funds, but the Constitution is explicit in requiring a formal declaration. It does so for two reasons, I think. The first is to prevent the president from taking the country to war without the consent of the governed, as represented by Congress. Second, by providing for a specific path to war, it provides the president power and legitimacy he would not have without that declaration; it both restrains the president and empowers him. Not only does it make his position as commander in chief unassailable by authorizing military action, it creates shared responsibility for war. A declaration of war informs the public of the burdens they will have to bear by leaving no doubt that Congress has decided on a new order — war — with how each member of Congress voted made known to the public.

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