Like most conservatives, I have more than a few gripes with the Republican Congress. However, I refuse to join those conservatives who think that the best way to save the Republican village is to burn it down for several reasons (they are more commonly known as cut-and-run conservatives). Everyone is, or should be, aware of the Democrat’s plans with taxes, spending, regulation, illegal immigrant amnesty, etc. Those certainly motivate me to do my part in keeping them out of power (the last one much more than the other three) but there is another major reason that hasn’t been discussed, what Pelosi-Reid et al will do to the defense budget.
Even now we are not spending what we should on the military during peacetime much less during war. Peacetime base military spending should be around 4.5% of GDP or about $630 billion in 2007. Next year we will only spend $440 billion or 3.1%. This would be one of my complaints about the Republicans. Given how important military spending is to me (it’s one of my top issues) I should stay home to teach the Republicans and America a lesson according to the burn-the-village-to-save-it Republicans. I will not since doing so will cause the penny-wise pound-foolish Democrats to gain the spending power over the military which is far worse than a repeat of the last Congress.
This is a dangerous possibility as the bills come due from the Clinton procurement holiday of the 90’s at the same time procurement costs escalate rapidly to purchase the new advanced weapons our military needs to stay on top. These expenses can be seen from the future estimated spending in the 2007 defense budget. (in billions of 2007 $)
In all likelihood this will not be enough to properly equip our military but it is most definitely better than allowing the Democrats to have any influence over the nation’s purse strings. Also, the Republicans have shown that when it becomes more obvious that it isn't enough, they will increase the spending to compensate.
We can be certain that the Democrats will not for two reasons; first it’s what they’ve done in the past, and second their planned policies will leave them no choice. The only two times that the American people were foolish enough to give the modern Democrats control of the government was in 1977-1980 and 1993-1994. In 1993-1994 the Democrats slashed the procurement budget a whopping 24% to only half its 1990 level. The defense budget would go on to shrink every year under Clinton until the Republicans realized the damage being done and began to trade some domestic spending for increased military spending in 1998-2000. No the Republicans weren’t perfect but they sure did a better job than Clinton or the Dems at ensuring our military had proper funding. That was during peacetime, surely the Dems wouldn’t do that during a conflict? From 1977-1980 they did. During four years of power by the Watergate Democrats the military budget increased a mere 1% (I’m excluding 1981 even though it should be included because if I recall Reagan forced through extra spending for the year and if not then Carter no doubt only allowed higher spending to head off Reagan, not because he wanted to). Again, only the Republicans caused military spending to remain at least near proper levels.
It is not only the Democrats’ past that points to their future, but also the Democrats themselves. The Democrats' raise taxes, raise domestic spending, and pay as you go budgeting will prevent the above procurement increases and may even require reductions. This is all the more so since the Democrats have said they oppose many new weapons programs (again as they have in the past). The primary target would most likely be the F-22 Raptor program. We have already paid for about half of this $62 billion program. The rest will be paid out over the next 6-10 years for production of the fighter barring any unfortunate elections. Some Democrats have called for the purchase of F-15’s instead of the F-22. Now the F-15 is a great fighter, but it is over 30 years old. The Europeans and Russians have more advanced fighters that they are selling to anyone with the money to buy them. We cannot allow a situation where Venezuela has better fighters than we do. Our Navy needs to increase its number of warships to counter the growth of navies around the world. Even the modest increase asked for by the Navy will cost an extra $20 billion over the next 5 years. However, some of the biggest supporters of this are in close elections and would be replaced by far less interested Democrats. It also goes without saying that the roughly $9 billion a year National Missile Defense budget would not remain at such levels. These are only three programs, but they total nearly $20 billion a year. When the Dems find out that their tax increases aren’t enough to support their new domestic spending (which will happen almost immediately), it won’t be long before they cast an eye towards these programs.
It is true that President Bush would at least be in office for the next 2 years so the Democrats won’t be completely free to take an axe to the military budget as they would like. The damage they could do is bad enough though. Since the Republicans are spending the bare minimum as it is, any reduction resulting from budget negotiations would severly compromise our military's future. Military procurement programs require years of stable funding. They cannot simply be turned on and off like a light switch. It is very expensive to restart a program after it has been cancelled or downsized. As such it will cost us dearly to correct the Democrats defense spending and program cuts. If the Democrats do not cut new programs then they will have to cut procurement for new equipment to replace equipment worn out or lost in Afghanistan and Iraq. Either way our military will not receive the amount of funding it needs to deal with the present and the future. We will also lose the time that these weapons could have been available to our soldiers. Even if Republicans do retake Congress and restore funding, if trouble flairs over Taiwan in 2010 our soldiers will desperately miss, and be killed by the absence of, the F-22’s, NMD, and more capable warships Democrats refused to fund 3 years earlier.
As can be seen by a short read of history, military underfunding can be a direct cause of war. World War I was started because the Germans believed they could defeat Britain, France, and Russia at the same time. Part of this was because the British only spent about 2.25% of their economy on defense, compared with 3-6% in Europe. Had the British, like the Germans, spent 4% on defense then the Germans would likely not have calculated that they could knock off France before Britain was prepared for war. It is a similar story in 1939 when the British again badly underfunded their military while the Germans spent like crazy in preparation for the coming war. Admittedly, the left-wing British government did increase military spending in 1938 but to their dismay, military spending takes time to translate into actual ships, planes, weapons, and soldiers. As I’ve written before the British certainly had the capacity to stop Hitler had they not been so parsimonious with defense spending in the 1930’s (yes they had good reasons to not be gun-ho but given the price of their mistake we don’t have an excuse to copy them). Lastly, it was not a coincidence that the biggest period of post World War II Soviet expansionism occurred during Carter’s military spending freeze. The great game of global power politics continues unabated whether we like it or not. The more margin that our weaker military leaves other powers, the more likely they are to take advantage of it to our detriment.
Despite the Republicans not spending to the level I think necessary on defense, they are at least spending more than the Democrats would. I also trust the Republicans to not force the military to choose between the present and future when the cost of the procurement holiday comes up against the cost of new weapon programs. The Democrats have shown by their past and their present statements that they are not trustworthy on military spending. The British paid the price twice for undercutting military spending, we paid the price in the 1980’s to defeat the rejuvenated Soviet Union, and we will soon pay the price for the “peace dividend” of the 1990’s. We cannot allow ourselves to make that mistake again. Even though Republicans are not perfect on the issue, they are good, and I will not help the perfect become the enemy of the good by helping to elect a party who is terrible on one of the most important issues to myself and my country.