Defense spending is an aspect of the U.S. budget that has fluctuated greatly throughout the years. Spending on military and defense has fluctuated greatly during the time between World War II and present time. Defense spending increased after WWII and into the Korean War, then began to decrease during the 1970’s. It rose during the Reagan’s presidency, decreased again during Clinton’s time in office, and was brought back up under Bush. Now, under Obama, defense spending has been cut dramatically once again. While the Democratic Party believes in maintaining a strong military, Democratic views on defense spending tend to support cuts to the defense budget far more than Republican views do.
Defense Spending Cuts As Budget Relief
Democrats state that they do not support short changing the military or the defense budget, but that, “in our current fiscal environment, we must also make tough budgetary decisions across the board — and that includes within the defense budget.” They believe that Republicans wish to overspend on the defense budget, not that the Democratic Party wishes to underspend. For this reason, Democrats seek defense budget cuts as a means of budget relief. The Democratic Party believes that much of the country’s defense spending is outdated, stating, “we will continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in cutting-edge technologies and maintain a versatile set of capabilities required to execute a wide range of military missions.” These “Cold War-era” systems that Democrats hope to cut include nuclear weapons technologies. For the reason, the Obama administration has arranged large cuts to the defense budget.
Public Opinion On Military Spending
The public opinion on the defense budget is incredibly divided, and has been divided throughout history. The most recent Gallup Poll data shows 37% of Americans stating that they believe the nation spends too much on the military and 20% of Americans saying they think spends too little. The remaining percent seems to be happy with the current levels of military spending. The public’s perception obviously fluctuates along with the fluctuations in military spending itself, with high percentages believing spending was too high in the 1970’s, 1990’s, and in 2002, right after the budget was raised post 9/11. Now that spending has been cut, the public is more divided on the issue than it has been in decades. This makes the issue of military spending a particularly hot-button issue as the 2016 election draws closer.
Republicans vs. Democrats on Defense Spending
The sequestration that the Obama administration proposed would leave America with the smallest ground force it has seen since 1940, the smallest number of ships it has seen since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in history. The Republican Party adamantly opposes the impending defense spending cuts, stating that they are “severe” and that they would be “a disaster for national security, imperiling the safety of our servicemen and women, accelerating the decline of our nation’s defense industrial base, and resulting in the layoff of more than 1 million skilled workers.” Senator Lindsey Graham stated, “This budget by President Obama guts our defense.” John McCain has spoken out saying that the now-Republican majority Congress will fight back against these cuts, stating, “We have to fix it, I promise you that we will make it [fixing sequestration] our highest priority.” However, McCain and his allies may be hard pressed to achieve this. Majority Leader Eric Cantor believes that Republicans would need bipartisan support to revoke the sequestration. “I don’t see a path where you’re going to get bipartisan relief on BCA caps,” Cantor said, referring to the spending caps enacted in 2011. “There needs to be bipartisan agreement even though there’s a Republican majority in Congress.”
Democrats and Weapons Systems
Democrats strongly believe that the production of nuclear material must cease. They would like to see all bomb-production materials worldwide safeguarded, stating “We need to find it, catalog it, & lock it away. Our approach should be simple: treat nuclear materials that make bombs like they are bombs.” They also hope to reduce the preexisting stocks of nuclear weapons around the world. They would also like to see the development of an anti-tactical missile defense system in the United States. This system is far more limited than that envisioned by the Republican Party, but Democrats believe that this will make it safer, stating In light of the possibility that U.S. forces will have to contend with hostile tactical range ballistic missiles, we have been working rapidly to develop anti-tactical ballistic missile systems. We reject Republican plans to endanger our security with massive unilateral cuts in our arsenal and to construct an unproven, expensive, and ill-conceived missile defense system that would plunge us into a new arms race. Democrats support the development of the technology for a limited national missile defense system.”
Obama on Defense Spending
The current defense cuts call not only for a drastic reduction in the financial support given to the military, but call for personnel cuts as well. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that this is because, “for the first time in 13 years, we will be presenting a budget to the Congress of the United States that’s not a war-footing budget.” A senior Pentagon official further explained the Obama administration’s rationale by stating, “you have to always keep your institution prepared, but you can’t carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war.”
Bernie Sanders on Defense Spending
Bernie Sanders adamantly believes in cutting defense spending. He has spoken out multiple times during his campaign to criticize the Republican “obsession” with defense spending. However, Sanders believes that the budgets themselves are not the biggest issue. Rather, it’s how the money in those budgets gets spend. Contractors make up about 29 percent of the intelligence workforce, but take up roughly 49 percent of personnel budgets. It is this that Sanders takes issue with. He believes that there needs to be more accountability to contractors and where their money is being spent.
Hillary Clinton on Defense Spending
Clinton has been under much scrutiny lately regarding her foreign policy beliefs. In the past, Clinton has often argued for, rather than against, increases in military spending. While most Democrats stood outraged in 2007 over George W. Bush’s increases in military spending, Clinton instead argued that they were not enough, and that more needed to be spent in the coming years. Perhaps for this reason, Clinton’s last presidential campaign received more money from defense contractors than any other candidate-including Republican candidates. She even fought to keep and restore funding for the few weapons systems that Bush did agree to cut during budget negotiations.
- Americans Remain Divided on Military Spending – Gallup
- Democratic Party on Defense – On The Issues
- Democratic Platform Supports More Defense Cuts – Defense News
- Hillary Clinton on Military Policy – Foreign Policy In Focus
- Bernie Sanders is right—America spends too much money on its military – The Daily Dot
- Democratic Views On Military Spending
- Democratic Views on the Military
- Republican Views on Defense Spending
- Republican Views on Military Spending
- Republican Views on National Defense
- Democratic Views on the Federal Budget
- Republican Views On The Military
- Democratic Views on Foreign Aid
- Democratic Views On Homeland Security
- Republican Views on Spending