Strategy should always guide the defense budget, not vice versa. Unfortunately, the budget submitted to Congress today by the Obama administration includes significant cuts to the Department of Defense that appear divorced from America's current strategic reality. These cuts will increasingly put America at risk and make it more difficult for the United States to fulfill its global responsibilities.
Starting in 2009, Secretary Gates launched an unprecedented series of house cleaning measures, freeing up billions of dollars in savings in the Pentagon's budget. The only federal agency to do this, Gates' savings were intended to be reinvested into long overdue military modernization programs. Instead, the White House pilfered the savings and told Mr. Gates to go back and find more while domestic discretionary spending and entitlement programs were largely given a pass.
This resulted in today's budget submission that will kill systems such as the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and eventually reduce the end strength of the Army and Marine Corps by tens of thousands of troops. These cuts, with our country at war and facing future challenges from China and other potential adversaries, make little strategic sense.
Defense is simply too important to be left to budgetary shell games. Though the Obama administration may believe it is enacting prudent cost-cutting measures, ignoring our military modernization needs in a time of peace is perilous. Doing so during ongoing operations could be catastrophic. It is important to rein in spending and eliminate the deficit, but this should not occur at the expense of U.S. national security.
To provide for the common defense is a constitutional duty of the federal government. House Republicans should keep this in mind as they review the President's budget and issue their own budget in the weeks to come.
Gary J. Schmitt is director of Advanced Strategic Studies at AEI. Thomas Donnelly is director of the Center for Defense Studies. Defending Defense is a joint project of AEI, Heritage Foundation and Foreign Policy Initiative.