Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Is our federal debt a threat to our national security?

November 22, 2010 by Stefan Frank


Editor's note: "What Is National Security," a podcast featuring Dick Allen, can be streamed in its entirety here: [audio:]

This past Monday night–in the midst of a burgeoning national debate about budget deficits– National Constitution Center visiting scholar Richard V. Allen weighed in with a caution about cutting too deeply into defense spending.

Allen adresses the audience at the Kirby Auditorium. Photo copyright: Carol Feeley.

In the first in a two-part series entitled: “What is National Security?”, Allen, the former National Security Advisor under President Ronald Reagan and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, laid out a “dazzling array of qualities” that contribute to our nation’s security. Allen spoke about the well-known components of intelligence and arms as well as more subtle facets like population growth rates, energy, trade, foot shortages, infrastructure, and what he characterizes as a perpetual distraction of re-election campaigning by members of Congress.

Allen was one of the first, if not the first, to publish a systematic inquiry into of the various streams of policies and government actions that formulate, by modern standards, national security back in the 1960’s. Today, Allen warns that in these various components and sub-components of national security–in particular our attempt at public diplomacy and international broadcasting, i.e. the “battle for hearts and minds”–America is “woefully behind” due to a lack of funding.

But Allen reserved a significant portion of his talk to our country’s economic situation, the entitlements, spending, unemployment, and inflation we’re told by the Federal Reserve to expect in the coming years. As Allen noted, “we’re about to engage in another extended debate about defense spending. How much can we afford to reduce our defense spending? What happens if we’re too small, and too unable to defend ourselves?”

Allen suggests all Americans stop and think about these considerations, which challenge us on a 24hr/day basis. Allen says he’s not sure where we’re headed, but given the internal strength of America he remains optimistic. Do you think there is fat in the defense budget that can be cut? Can we cut defense spending and still maintain national security?

Stefan Frank is the National Constitution Center's Director of Digital Engagement and manager of Constitution Daily's Twitter account @ConDailyBlog. Follow us!

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