Rep. Paul Ryan gave an outstanding speech today at AEI, “The Battle Plan: A Roadmap for America’s Future.” During the Q&A I asked him about the GOP’s commitment to a strong national defense. The one area where conservatives have consistently supported more government spending is national defense. But recently there have been some murmurs on the right to the effect that the defense budget should not be exempt from the call for massive spending cuts in Washington. I asked Paul about the future of the Republican commitment to a robust national defense if the GOP takes control of Congress in the fall. Here’s what he said:
I believe in … the coalition of the Republican Party, in a strong national defense party. There’s lots of waste that can be saved. And those savings should go to fulfilling the mission of the Pentagon. But believe me, I’ve sat in lots of hearings, I’ve read lots of GAO reports. If you give any agency that much money there’s going to be waste. There’s a procurement problem, there’s an operations and maintenance problem, I could go on and on about ways in which we can save money—not to hollow out our defenses, not to reduce the fulfillment of our missions, but to make them better and more secure. But we should make sure we take that scalpel to the Pentagon as well. Because I would argue there is a lot of waste to be gotten. But let’s not do so at the expense of our fundamental, primary function of our federal government, which is to secure our national defense. So I believe in a big cap, and I believe in a firewall, so you can’t take money from defense to plow it into all this domestic spending, but under that cap let’s make sure that we can get savings so that we can do more with less—or, what do they say these days? Do more with not as much, I think, is the way Secretary Gates says it.
I followed up to ask whether there should be net increases, or net cuts, in defense spending? He replied:
I would say, looking at the baseline, you would have to have net increases. You can’t fulfill the missions we have, give the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines what they need to do their job, without a net increase. That is just a baseline reality.
This is an important statement on the importance of investing in national defense from one of Congress’s most important voices for fiscal responsibility. We need to get government spending under control, and find savings in the Pentagon budget. But those savings should be plowed back into national defense and used to strengthen our national security, not to balance the budget, reduce the debt, or fund domestic spending. And the GOP needs to continue its traditional support for net increases in defense spending.
Image by mashleymorgan
You can see his comments on defense beginning at 26:30 of the video here.