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Cutting the Pentagon's Budget is a Gift To Our Enemies

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  • America's Conventional Military Strength Second to None

    Clip: Benjamin Friedman argues foreign belligerents such as Iran and North Korea and even our old adversary Russia are no match for the U.S. Armed Forces and suggests that the nation could benefit from a reduction in costly conventional forces.

  • If US Power Wanes Beware of History Repeating Itself

    Clip: Andrew Krepinevich cites the history of the British Empire as reason to maintain a strong military. Though "Pax Britannica" was a relatively peaceful period, once British power waned the world plunged into two consecutive and deadly wars.

  • It's About Reducing the Debt Not the Defense Spending

    Clip: Hoover Institution research fellow Kori Schake warns the gift to our enemies isn't a smaller military; it's out-of-control government spending. She adds there is an "enormous" margin for error when considering defense cuts.

  • Reducing Defense Spending Would Increase Global Threats

    Clip: Andrew Krepinevich argues that any reductions to American defense spending would increase the risk of global threats. According to Krepinevich the United States would lose the capability to counteract cyber and technological attacks.

  • Pentagon Offers the Best Bang for the Taxpayer's Buck

    Clip: Tom Donnelly author and security policy analyst explains that as a government function the Department of Defense is more efficient and offers a better value proposition than any other agency.

  • Trim Military Surpluses to Reinforce US Weaknesses

    Clip: Kori Schake asserts that trimming military surpluses won't embolden our enemies. According to Schake enemies will take the fight to our greatest weaknesses and those are the areas were attention should be paid.

Debate Details

Presented in Partnership with The McCain Institute for International Leadership 

Political gridlock in Washington triggered across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, in March. As a result, the Pentagon was given six months to eliminate $41 billion from the current year’s budget, and unlike past cuts, this time everything is on the table. In 2011, America spent $711 billion dollars on its defense—more than the next 13 highest spending countries combined. But the burdens it shoulders, both at home and abroad, are unprecedented. Could the sequester be a rare opportunity to overhaul the armed forces, or will its impact damage military readiness and endanger national security?

The Debaters

For the motion

Thomas Donnelly

Co-Director, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, AEI

Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security policy analyst, is the co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI. He is the coauthor... Read More

Andrew Krepinevich

President, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. is president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He assumed this position in 1993, following a 21-year... Read More

Against the motion

Benjamin Friedman

Research Fellow, Cato Institute

Benjamin H. Friedman is a research fellow in defense and homeland security studies. His areas of expertise include counter-terrorism, homeland security... Read More

Kori Schake

Research Fellow, Hoover Institution

Kori Schake is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, where she is writing a book about the American experience as a rising power from 1840-1921. ... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • The cumulative effect of defense budget cuts will leave the U.S. military at risk by degrading its future capability. This at a time when Korea is testing nuclear missiles, Iran is rapidly developing its nuclear program, and China is aggressively increasing its military spending.
  • The U.S. spends a smaller percentage of its GDP (4-5%) on defense than it did during the Cold War (6-7%). Growth in federal spending on entitlements is a much greater threat to our economy.
  • The changing nature of conflicts requires us to be engaged on multiple fronts that require more resources for troops and recruitment.
  • America's military support for its allies in Asia and Europe creates stability throughout the world.
Against The Motion
  • America spends more on defense than the next 13 highest spending countries combined. Even with a smaller budget, we will remain the world's most powerful military force.
  • Cuts will make us safer by injecting more accountability, forcing the Pentagon to manage its spending more carefully.
  • The U.S., surrounded by two oceans and relatively weak neighbors, faces few national security threats.
  • We are allowing our wealthy allies to be free riders. It's time for them to step up and take on more of the costs of their own security.

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The Research

The Research

America's Staggering Defense Budget, in Charts

Brad Plumer
January 7, 2013

An overview of the U.S. defense budget.

The U.S. Spent More on Defense in 2012 than Did the Countries with the Next 10 Highest Defense Budgets Combined

Peter G. Peterson Foundation
April 12, 2013

The sheer size of the defense budget suggests that it should be part of any serious effort to address America's long-term fiscal challenges.

A Hollow Military Again?

James Kitfield
June 12, 2013

Military leaders are frustrated by the knowledge that the sequester is not only forcing them to spend precious dollars inefficiently but also depleting the preparedness of the force in a way that will be costly and time-consuming to restore.

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