In the July agreement reached over the federal debt limit resulted in a $350 billion reduction in planned DOD spending over the next 10 years; with the possibility of a future $500 billion over the same period.
 
Yet, many of those who benefit from DOD business-as-usual argue that an $850 billion reduction in spending over 10 years would be devastating to our national security.
 
This argument is wrong.

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This budget debate should not be viewed as a catastrophe for national security; rather, it represents an opportunity to seriously review our national security strategy. 
 
This is an opportunity to make responsible long-term decisions about what is in America’s national security interest.
 
There are four key issues that we should be looking at in this debate:
 
First, we need an updated and realistic national security strategy with 21st Century priorities. 
 
Lets face it, we can no-longer afford the cost of doing more of the same with defense spending, especially when that means applying 1980’s solutions to problems of the second decade of the 21st Century. 
 
A prime example of this is our nuclear posture.  Ever since President Reagan, we have negotiated reductions in Russian and US nuclear forces, with strong verification measures that created stability and predictability.  We must advance this system and insist on reductions in other countries’ nuclear arsenals as well. Further nuclear arms reductions should eliminate weapons we don’t need, while retaining a strong and appropriate deterrent.  In the process, we will free up resources to meet 21st Century challenges.
 
Second, future budgets must reflect that national security goes beyond bombs and bullets; it’s also about diplomacy, development, and - perhaps most important - preserving a strong American economy.  Though the Pentagon is entitled to a vote on what constitutes American national security, it cannot be allowed to hijack the debate.
 
Third, we should be working with allies as full partners.  Yes, it is time NATO countries fully contribute to their national security by putting appropriate resources into their militaries. But, it is also time we work closer with our core allies and Russia to move forward key issues such as cooperative missile defense. 
 
And last, one that history also urges upon us, end the folly of self-destructive unilateral wars that undermine our nation’s security.  This financial crisis underlines the necessity of ending our military involvement in Iraq on schedule, at the end of 2011, rather than wheedling the Iraqis to allow US troops to remain. This could cost of billions of dollars we can’t afford, and at the needless loss of more precious American lives.
 
It is time for a national discussion on what constitutes American national security, and it is time to reorient our budget accordingly.
 
Of course, we wish that we did not have a budget crisis that causes real disruption in our citizens’ lives.  But we do, and that crisis forces us to seize the opportunity to refocus our often wasteful, counter-productive defense spending.  We can instead set a course that safeguards the peace and prosperity of the American people.
 
Brigadier General John Adams retired from the US Army in 2007 and is a member of the Consensus for American Security. His final military assignment was as Deputy United States Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium.