U.S. spending on military and defense has fluctuated greatly during the time between World War II and present time. Spending increased from post-WWII levels and into the Korean War, then decreased during the 1970’s. It rose during Reagan’s time in office, declined when Clinton was president, rose again under Bush, and has been cut substantially again under Obama. While the Democratic Party believes in maintaining a strong military, Democratic views on military spending tend to support cuts to the defense budget far more than Republican views do. However, despite their belief in a lower defense budget, Democrats wish to see military pay and benefits increase, stating, ” military pay must continue to increase. We need to further reform the military retirement system and improve housing, health care, and childcare benefits to support the competitiveness of military careers during a period of prosperity. While the number of soldiers on food stamps is down by two-thirds over the past decade, it is unacceptable that any member of our armed forces should have to rely on food stamps.”
Defense Spending Cuts As Budget Relief
Democrats state that they do not support short changing the military, 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 military, not that they wish to underspend. For this reason, they seek defense budget cuts as a means of budget relief. The Democratic Party believes that a good portion of military spending is outdated, stating, “se will continue to get rid of outdated Cold War-era systems so that we can invest in cutting-edge technologies and maintain a versatile set of capabilities required to execute a wide range of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 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 Military 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.”
Obama on Military 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.”
Hillary Clinton on Military 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.
Joe Biden on Military Spending
Vice President Joe Biden stands behind the Democratic Party in his belief that defense spending has been too high in recent years. He clarifies that he believes in keeping soldiers safe, stating, “When it comes to the safety of our warriors we have to spend the money. But this idea of it’s somehow inherently more important to spend money on the military than on domestic needs is a policy I reject—I reject out of hand.” He pointed out that he holds these views despite military spending being a topic close to his heart. Biden explained “I don’t take a backseat to anyone, including Vice President Cheney, on the issue of our military. I know what it’s like to have a son stationed in Iraq for a year.” He spoke out criticizing former Vice President Cheney, who argued that defense spending should trump domestic spending, saying “I saw Vice President Cheney saying that we should be spending more money on our military, not on food stamps and highways” and that he strongly disagreed.
- 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
- Biden: I ‘Reject’ Dick Cheney’s Stance on Defense Spending – Time
- Democratic Views on Defense Spending
- Republican Views on Military Spending
- Republican Views on Defense Spending
- Democratic Views on the Military
- Democratic Views On Spending
- Republican Views On The Military
- Democratic Views on the Federal Budget
- Republican Views on Spending
- Democratic Views on Foreign Aid
- Republican Views on National Defense