Meeting the True Fiscal, Social and Political Challenges to U.S. National Security

We need to reform the ways we spend on national security. We need to debate our levels of spending on defense, foreign aid, and dealing with terrorism. Few doubt that defense spending grew far too fat over more than a decade of wartime increases, that every aspect of defense spending needs to be examined, reshaped and made more efficient, and we urgently need to control the spiraling costs in defense procurement. We need to reexamine the balance between military spending and foreign aid at a time when political upheavals in the Middle East illustrate the need to use such aid as a tool in bring political and economic stability. We need to ask why the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates we are now spending nearly $80 billion a year on homeland defense and the war on terrorism.

There are equally good reasons to focus on the overall structure of federal spending. The moment one moves away from partisan political polarization, it becomes all too clear that we need to both raise taxes to provide more revenue and to make cuts in entitlement spending. Moreover, it becomes clear that we need to think in terms of the total mix of federal, state, and local programs, and not simply the current debate over federal revenues and spending. The issue is not simply national security spending as a percent of federal spending; it is national security relative to the total tax burden, the total cost of civil governance, and their impact on our overall economy.

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