Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security

Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security
© Greg Nash

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE warned lawmakers Tuesday that failing to curb the national debt could jeopardize national security.

Coats, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he’s concerned that the U.S. government’s “increasingly fractious political process, particularly with respect to federal spending, is threatening our ability to defend our nation, both in the short term and especially in the long term.”

Coats’s warning comes days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE signed a bipartisan budget deal with a $300 billion increase in federal spending tied to a short-term bill to fund the government through March 23. The bill also suspended the debt ceiling, the federal limit on how much debt the U.S could hold, until 2019.

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Trump also rolled out his fiscal 2019 budget on Monday, which doesn’t balance within 10 years or eliminate yearly federal deficits.

Fiscal hawks have raged against Republican leaders, who they say abandoned their pledge to curb irresponsible federal spending. Trump, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Dem candidate says he faced cultural barriers on the campaign trail because he is working-class Former House candidate and ex-ironworker says there is 'buyer's remorse' for Trump in Midwest Head of top hedge fund association to step down MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change MORE (R-Ky.) have praised the budget deal for adding billions in what they consider crucial defense spending.

Coats, former chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the U.S. fiscal situation “is unsustainable as I think we all know and represents a dire threat to our economy and national security.”

“I would urge all of us to recognize the need to address this challenge and take action as soon as possible before a fiscal crisis emerges that truly undermines our ability to ensure our national security,” Coats said.

Coats is the latest national security official to warn of security risks posed by the national debt, which is now roughly $20 trillion. A slew of former intelligence and military leaders have insisted that a fiscal crisis involving rising borrowing costs spurred by the ballooning national debt could leave the U.S. vulnerable to attack.

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen in 2010 called the national debt “the most significant threat to our national security.” And former Pentagon chiefs Leon Panetta, Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council Dozens of ex-officials warn Trump against White House panel on climate change MORE and Ash Carter wrote to Congress in November opposing the GOP tax plan, citing concerns about its debt impact.