Supposedly Fiscally Conservative Republicans Make Exceptions For Defense Spending


Credit: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force/wikimedia

Some supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans are upset that the Obama administration has proposed that Department of Defense spending for fiscal year 2015 be limited to roughly $496 billion.

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), said that the Obama administration's plans to cut the defense budget were "disappointing," and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that the proposed defense budget would put the U.S. military's ability to protect American interests abroad, provide a deterrent to attack, and provide security for allies at risk.

Former Congressman Allen West (R-Fla.) issued a bizarre statement in response to the proposed budget, saying that it is being cheered by our enemies and that small cuts to our vast defense budget will "decimate our military capability."

You would think that those who like to talk about fiscal responsibility would be more open to cutting defense spending, especially given that U.S. defense spending dwarfs any other country's.

According to the International Business Times, in 2013 the top 20 military spenders spent $1.316 trillion on "defense-related expenditures." The U.S. was responsible for an astonishing 44 percent of that spending.

A graph below from the Economist based on data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute illustrates how much of global military spending the U.S. was responsible for in 2012:

Anyone who claims to be for cutting government spending should consider the Department of Defense as one of the prime candidates for cuts.

It is worth keeping in mind that, despite what Sen. Rubio said, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey believes that the Defense Department's budget proposal "represents a responsible and, more importantly, a realistic way forward." The New York Times reported yesterday that officials believe that the proposed budget will allow for a military that will be "capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations."

Reason reached out to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) for comment on the Defense Department budget proposal.

Sen. Cruz's D.C. Press Secretary Catherine Frazier told Reason the following:

It is a shame that instead of going after going after waste, duplication and bureaucracy, Sec. Hagel is instead looking to reduce the number of men and women that are bravely serving to protect our country. We can comment more specifically on his proposal when we see the budget details next week.

This post will be updated as the lawmakers (or their staff) respond to request for comment.   

UPDATE (2:29pm on 2/25/14): Statement from Rep. Massie (R-Ky.) below:

Overseas military interventions and protracted foreign occupations are expensive, and have contributed to U.S. debt over the last decade, while stretching our military resources thin. Defense spending must be efficiently focused on defending our country while fully compensating the brave individuals who volunteer to serve.