Cornyn Delivers Hudson Institute Speech: “Defending Defense”

Today, I delivered an address at the Hudson Institute. In light of the pending recommendations of the Deficit Reduction “Super Committee,” I argued that defense strategy should drive defense spending, not the other way around.

The following are excerpts from the speech, as prepared for delivery.

You can also watch the speech live here.

“The questions before us are stark but simple: What are the threats to America’s peace and prosperity and to the peace and prosperity of other free peoples? Who are America’s allies, partners, and friends? What’s America’s strategy to meet those threats? And what capabilities do we need to implement that strategy successfully?

“Now more than ever, we need a coherent and compelling vision for America’s role as a global leader: How we can meet the threats, mitigate the risks and seize the numerous opportunities for the expansion of liberty and prosperity around the world?

“[D]espite the promise of such a vision when he took the Oath of Office in January 2009, President Obama seems more ‘aloof’ than ‘engaged’ in U.S. foreign policy. Sure, the President shows up now and again to ‘spike the football’ when a major tyrant or terrorist is killed. But there’s a sense that each of his decisions are ‘one-offs’ - not tied to any specific strategy - and despite his remarkable rhetorical gifts, he doesn’t seem interested in articulating America’s role in the world - either to the American people or to our allies, friends, and partners.

“As you know, the Budget Control Act passed by Congress this past summer created a ‘Super Committee’ of legislators to try to find a way to reduce our deficit. The Super Committee faces a deadline of November 23 to make their recommendations or a little more than two weeks from now …If this process fails, then ‘sequestration’ would take place and the base defense budget would fall 14 percent in real terms over just three years, even as our troops continue to fight multiple wars and other security threats loom on the horizon.

“Keep in mind that these sequestration cuts to our national defense would be in addition to the cuts already made under the Budget Control Act – which are up to $489 billion over 10 years and the ‘efficiencies’ previously recommended by Secretary Gates which are a little less than $180 billion over five years.

“I believe we need to listen to the Pentagon’s leaders – both civilian and military. And that means giving them the tools and resources they need to defend our nation. That means before looking at the spreadsheet we really need to look at the map …

“Here’s the point: Other nations face economic and fiscal challenges just like we do. Yet they are making the investments in military capabilities they think they need.

“China still has hundreds of millions of people in poverty, yet it’s made huge investments to upgrade its military forces. Iran has been willing to endure years of economic sanctions in order to pursue its nuclear weapons program. And North Korea has literally been starving its own people to feed its own military-industrial complex.

“So how do I suggest that we proceed? I say: Let’s get the strategy right first. The Defense Department is still completing its Comprehensive Strategic Review of what the Budget Control Act will mean for our military capabilities and what the strategic implications of those cuts really are. Without this analysis, without this strategic plan, Congress would be cutting blind and we would not be cutting responsibly.

“Let’s also have Congress debate what America’s commitments and capabilities should be. And let’s have the President make a consistent and thoughtful case for his vision both to the American people and to our friends in other nations. And then, once we have a sound strategy, let’s resource it appropriately.

“Of course: this is not to say that we can’t cut the Defense budget in the short term. We need to aggressively fight waste, fraud, and abuse wherever we find it. For example, I find it shocking that financial mismanagement at the Defense Department is so prevalent that no one can effectively audit the Pentagon.

“The Pentagon also needs to rethink the way it develops and acquires major weapons systems. Over the last decade, the Pentagon approved purchases of several weapons systems, but then cancelled them and wasted some $50 billion with nothing to show for it.

“Let me close on a note of optimism and hope. I firmly believe our budget challenges can be met.

“As Ronald Reagan once said: ‘There are no easy answers – but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.’

“What’s morally right is bringing federal spending back to the level where we can afford it, without burdening the next generation under a mountain of debt.

“I believe this nation has the moral courage to make the simple choices – not the easy choices – to do right by our children and grandchildren.

“I also believe that America’s national security challenges can be met as well.

"The threats we see around the world are very real, but so too is the power of liberty to transform adversaries into allies."


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