Will Congress Provide For The Common Defense? National Security Priorities In An Increasingly Dangerous World




On Monday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) spoke about U.S. national security and the importance of military strength at an event co-sponsored by FPI and the American Action Forum (AAF). Following his address, there was a panel discussion featuring Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the president of AAF, and David Adesnik, policy director at FPI.

The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) believes that lawmakers and staff will benefit from the following insights offered at Monday’s event as they consider how to repair the damage done by sequestration and rebuild the U.S. military. A full video of the event is also available, courtesy of C-SPAN.

Growing Threats to U.S. National Security

“Our enemies, sensing weakness and hence opportunity, have become steadily more aggressive. Our allies, uncertain of our commitment and capabilities, have begun to conclude that they must look out for themselves, even if it’s unhelpful to global stability and order.” – Sen. Tom Cotton

“Only when we demonstrate military strength and moral confidence in the defense of America’s national security will we make war less likely in the first place. Our enemies and our allies alike will and must know that aggressors will pay an unspeakable price for challenging the United States.” – Sen. Tom Cotton

America’s Declining Investment in Military Strength

“Make no mistake, our military capabilities have declined. Today, defense spending is only 16 percent of all federal spending, a historic low rivaled only by the post-Cold War period. To give some context, during the Cold War, defense spending regularly accounted for 60 percent of all federal spending, but if we don’t end the experiment with retreat this President will leave office with a mere 12 percent of all federal dollars spent on defense.” – Sen. Tom Cotton

“The defense budget has been slashed by hundreds of billions of dollars over the last six years … Using the broadest measure of affordability and national priorities, defense spending as a percentage of our economy, last year we only spent 3.5 percent of our national income on defense … To provide some context, when Ronald Reagan took office we spent 5 percent of our national income on defense.” – Sen. Tom Cotton

The Impact on our Armed Forces

“First, our military does face a readiness crisis, from budget cuts and a decade of war. We must act immediately to get our forces back in fighting shape, from live-fire ranges to flight time, and so forth. Second, and related, our military is shrinking rapidly to historically small levels. This decline must be reversed, in end strengths of the Army and Marine Corps, the number of platforms in the Air Force and the Navy. Third, we must also increase research and development and procurement funds to ensure our military retains its historic technological advantage, particularly as our adversaries gain more access to advanced, low cost technologies.” – Sen. Tom Cotton

“Today’s weapons systems and equipment will age and begin to break down; our troops won’t be able to train and their weapons and equipment won’t be ready for the fight. In short, we will have a hollow force, incapable of defending our national security.” – Sen. Tom Cotton

The Proposed FY2016 Budget

“This week the Senate budget resolution will reflect a base defense budget of $523 billion dollars and emergency supplemental spending of $89 billion dollars. While better than the defense spending mandated by the Budget Control Act, this is still insufficient given our readiness crisis, the shrinking size of our military, and the immediate need to modernize aircraft, ships, vehicles, and so forth. The National Defense Panel, a bipartisan group of eminent national security experts convened by Congress, unanimously recommended a $600 billion dollar floor for the defense budget – not a ceiling. I agree that $611 billion dollars is necessary and I agree it’s also not sufficient.” – Sen. Tom Cotton

“Thirty-nine extra billion dollars in OCO or war spending isn’t the same defense budget as plussing up the base budget.” – Mackenzie Eaglen

“What we’ve already seen in recent Congresses are members banding together on the left and the right to strip OCO money that wasn’t requested by the Pentagon … However it [i.e. the defense budget] turns out, it’s definitely not going to be the number we’re talking about this week for defense, it will be a number lower. That’s a fact, that’s a guarantee.” – Mackenzie Eaglen

Reaching A Deal on Defense

“The outlines of the deal are pretty clear, and the tools, I think, are there to get it done, so you’ll spend more in the base budget on defense, and you’ll exceed the caps. The price will be more nondefense spending; the President will demand it, the Democrats will demand it.” – Douglas Holtz-Eakin

“I believe the President when he says he’ll veto a defense budget that comes in at caps regardless of what the OCO does. He’s going to do that, and so that’s why I know that we’re going to start this fiscal year with a Continuing Resolution unfortunately.” – Mackenzie Eaglen

“Congress has done it [i.e. made deals] twice already and we know they’re going to do it again with the Price-Enzi deal, some kind of follow on to the Ryan-Murray, but they’re not going to do it until they’ve exhausted every other available option and they’ve gone through this long, torturous path to get there.” – Mackenzie Eaglen

“The President came in above the caps. He’s laid down a marker, and yes: there will be a price which is the nondefense discretionary spending. Yes, there will be people who hate that, but that’s the nature of deals. Deals are not clean victories; they are coalitions of the disgruntled getting half of what they want.” – Douglas Holtz-Eakin

The Runaway Cost of Entitlements

“The fact is we have sequestration because there’s never been either the political will or the right answer that helps people take on entitlements which are almost entirely domestic spending. So when you really look at it, when you hear Senator Cotton say that anywhere from 12-17 percent of [the budget]– from this year out to the next five years – is consumed by defense spending, that means 80 percent-plus is on non-defense spending, overwhelmingly on the increasing share that goes to entitlements.” – David Adesnik

“The larger budgetary dynamics have been in play for some time. It has been utterly foreseeable that the baby boom generation would age one year at a time every year, and that ultimately we would get to the point as we are now, where we get 10,000 new beneficiaries every day flowing into Social Security, flowing into Medicare, where we see rising spending on Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, the other components of entitlements, or so-called mandatory spending … It’s driving out of the budget the kinds of things the Founders would have recognized as the role of government. It’s driving out investments in infrastructure and research on the non-defense side; it’s driving out spending on national security.” – Douglas Holtz-Eakin

Speaker Biographies

Senator Tom Cotton is a United States Senator from Arkansas.  Senator Cotton's committees include the Banking Committee, the Intelligence Committee, and the Armed Services Committee, where he chairs the Air Land Power Subcommittee.  Senator Cotton grew up on his family’s cattle farm in Yell County, Arkansas.  He graduated from Dardanelle High School, Harvard, and Harvard Law School.  After a clerkship with the U.S. Court of Appeals and private law practice, Sentor Cotton left law because of the September 11th attacks.  He served nearly five years on active duty in the United States Army as an Infantry Officer.  Senator Cotton served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne and in Afghanistan with a Provincial Reconstruction Team.  Between his two combat tours, Senator Cotton served with The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery.  His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Ranger Tab.  Between the Army and the Senate, Senator Cotton worked for McKinsey & Co. and served one term in the House of Representatives.

David Adesnik is the policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative, where he focuses on defense and strategy issues.  Previously, Dr. Adesnik was a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.  For two years, he served as deputy director for Joint Data Support at the U.S. Department of Defense, where he focused on the modeling and simulation of irregular warfare and counterinsurgency.  Dr. Adesnik also spent several years as research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses.  He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia.  His work has been published in Foreign Policy, The Weekly Standard, The National Review, The Washington Free Beacon, The Washington Quarterly, Forbes.com, FoxNews.comThe Daily Caller, and U.S. News & World Report.  Dr. Adesnik holds a doctorate and master’s degree in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.  He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University.
Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness.  Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the House of Representatives and Senate and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff.  In 2014, Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated National Defense Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess US defense interests and strategic objectives.  This followed Eaglen’s previous work as a staff member for the 2010 congressionally mandated bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, also established to assess the Pentagon’s major defense strategy.  A prolific writer on defense-related issues, she has also testified before Congress.  Eaglen has an M.A. from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. from Mercer University.

Christopher J. Griffin joined the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) as executive director in January 2013. Previously, he served as legislative director to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), advising the senator on the full range of legislative proposals and key votes. Between 2008 and 2011, he was Senator Lieberman's military legislative assistant, in which capacity he developed the senator's legislative agenda as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of its Airland Subcommittee. Prior to joining Senator Lieberman's staff, Mr. Griffin was a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy (2005-2008), where he focused on U.S. foreign and defense policy toward the Asia-Pacific. During his time at AEI, Mr. Griffin was also a contributing editor to the Armed Forces Journal, writing feature articles on international defense industrial cooperation and a monthly column titled the "Blogs of War." Mr. Griffin's writings have been published in the Washington PostWall Street Journal, and New York Times.
Rachel Hoff is director of defense analysis at the American Action Forum.  She previously served as the director of government relations & external affairs at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a think tank she helped found in 2009.  From 2006 to 2008, Rachel worked as a Legislative Assistant for Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), focusing on foreign affairs and national security issues.  From 2004 to 2006, she was a research assistant working with several foreign and defense policy scholars at the American Enterprise Institute.  Rachel received a master’s degree in global policy studies from the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Tufts University.  She has worked and volunteered for numerous Republican Party campaigns and organizations and represented Washington, DC as a delegate at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin is the president of the American Action Forum and most recently was a commissioner on the Congressionally-chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.  During 2001-2002, he was the chief economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (where he had also served during 1989-1990 as a senior staff economist).  At CEA he helped to formulate policies addressing the 2000-2001 recession and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  From 2003-2005 he was the 6th director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which provides budgetary and policy analysis to the U.S. Congress.  During 2007 and 2008 he was director of domestic and economic policy for the John McCain presidential campaign.  Following the 2008 election Dr. Holtz-Eakin was the president of DHE Consulting, an economic and policy consulting firm providing insight and research to a broad cross-section of clients.  Dr. Holtz-Eakin was senior fellow at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics (2007-2008), and the director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies and the Paul A. Volcker Chair in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations (2006).  He has also been a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and American Family Business Foundation.  He began his career at Columbia University in 1985 and moved to Syracuse University from 1990 to 2001.  Dr. Holtz-Eakin serves on the Boards of the Tax Foundation, National Economists Club, and the Research Advisory Board of the Center for Economic Development.


Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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