Upon taking the oath of office, the President swears to,”…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The Preamble states six reasons for writing the Constitution, two of which are to, “provide for the common defense…and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” However, in an age of perpetual deficits and growing national debt, has the “Common Defense” become unaffordable?
To answer this question first requires to define the term “Common Defense”, or what it is more accurately called today as “National Defense”. Is National Defense simply securing the homeland? Is it the ability to project power to protect our interests and the interests of our allies? Does National Defense mean we confront evil and oppression wherever it exists in the world in an effort to act as the world’s police force? Defining this term accurately will allow us to set the parameters and objectives our defense forces must meet.
Next, after defining this term and setting our parameters and objectives, we will need to quantify what this defense force will look like in terms of personnel, equipment and support structures needed for its sustainment, as well as what kind of dollar cost that will impose. Finally, we will need to examine the types of missions this force will be required to undertake to meet national security objectives and the associated costs those missions require.
The second half of the paper (after common defense) deals with the responsibility of, “Securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” As mentioned before, National Defense costs money, but our government is currently running large deficits because revenue is less than expenses. In order to bring this into balance, should Defense be cut? The first half of the paper will answer that question. But what about securing liberty? Will the fact that foreign countries own billions and even trillions of our national debt impact the President’s liberty in making national security decisions?
But more than securing liberty for ourselves, what about securing liberty for our posterity? If our current rate of deficit spending continues to the next generation, what impact will that have on our National Defense? Will foreign debt holders have an increasing say in our foreign and domestic affairs? But beyond that, is it fair to ask the next generation to pay for this generations debts? Do we owe it to our posterity to get our financial house in order now, in order to protect their future financial liberty?
The President has a hard job ahead of him of trying to provide national defense during a recession. To do this in a fiscally sustainable way will require the wisdom and courage to make tough decisions. Hopefully this paper will give him both.