Intel chief: Federal debt poses ‘dire threat’ to national security

Greg Nash

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats 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 Trump 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.

{mosads}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 Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Hagel and Ash Carter wrote to Congress in November opposing the GOP tax plan, citing concerns about its debt impact.

Tags Chuck Hagel Dan Coats Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan

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