Providing for the Common Defense Act

Today, the House will vote on a budget deal crafted by budget committee chairmen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to set top-line discretionary spending levels for the next two fiscal years.

We are pleased to see that the Ryan-Murray budget compromise does offer some near-term relief to our military from the devastating effects of sequestration budget cuts. However, we believe that Ryan-Murray does not go far enough in restoring necessary funding for national security. The compromise also does not go nearly far enough to address the entitlement spending that is driving our country into debt. Our bill, the Provide for the Common Defense Act (PCDA), is the superior alternative to the Ryan-Murray deal.


Given the current budgetary situation, our bill is the best option for the federal government to achieve its primary responsibility. The Constitution clearly states the federal government must “provide for the common defense” before anything else. Our rights and liberties are meaningless if America is not secure. The Founding Fathers recognized the central importance of defending the United States and devoted more of the Constitution to national security than any other subject.

The world is getting more dangerous. China and Russia are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into comprehensive military modernization campaigns. Both countries are becoming more assertive in their respective regions of the world. Beijing recently declared an Air Defense Identification Zone over sovereign Japanese territory in the East China Sea. Over the weekend, Moscow scuttled a European Union association agreement with Ukraine that would have moved Kiev decisively toward the West. Russia also continues to occupy parts of the Republic of Georgia and keep the South Caucasus within its sphere of influence.

Rogue states like Iran and North Korea are developing weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles that can strike the U.S. After a decade on the run, global terrorist organizations like al Qaeda have reconstituted formidable organizations in Iraq and Syria and remain eager to hurt America, and Americans, in any way possible.

While the threats to our security are growing, President Obama and Congress are imposing radical cuts to our national security budget. If these cuts continue, Congress will cut the defense budget by $500 billion in one decade. Even prior to the current sequestration cuts, Obama proposed $487 billion in cuts to national security. While some downsizing after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is appropriate, a $1 trillion cut to defense will gut our military and put our national security at risk.

Unfortunately, these cuts to national security are already putting our nation at risk, and the men and women in uniform will suffer the consequences. The chief of the Army recently said that only two of 42 Army brigades are ready for combat. One day this past summer, the Air Force only had eight warplanes that were ready for an unexpected emergency. We never want to use our military, but by being strong and prepared, we can convince bad actors to stay away. These kinds of devastating cuts invite aggression. As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it: “Weakness is provocative.”

Our nation has a huge budget problem, but deep cuts to national security are not the way to fix the problem. It is unwise, and the math simply doesn’t add up. We could never spend another dollar on national security, and our entitlement programs will still drive our nation into bankruptcy.

The solution is obvious to most conservatives — reform our entitlement programs and keep our national security strong. That is just what our bill does, the Provide for the Common Defense Act. In exchange for eliminating the cuts for our national security budget in 2014 and 2015, our bill institutes targeted entitlement reforms proposed by Obama in his fiscal 2014 budget submission. We implement a more accurate measure of inflation, means-test parts of Medicare, reform crop insurance, and make federal employees contribute more to their retirement plans. All of these are Obama-endorsed ideas and don’t touch taxes. Our bill also reduces the national debt by about $200 billion after paying for the defense sequester.

In the first 10 years, this plan produces almost three dollars in savings for every dollar spent on increased national security spending. In the following 10 years, this plan will save billions more. This bill does not fix our entitlement problem. There is much more that must be done, but it is a starting point and should have bipartisan support.

Again, we appreciate the Ryan-Murray bill’s partial restoration of national security spending and very modest crack at entitlement reform. We think our bill is a better model going forward to fully fund national security to acceptable levels and take on America’s enormous fiscal challenges. It certainly should appeal to conservatives interested in preserving national security while reducing the deficit and making meaningful entitlement reform.

Bridenstine is a freshman representing Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District. He sits on the Armed Services; and the Science, Space and Technology committees. Lamborn has represented Colorado’s 5th Congressional District since 2007. He serves on the Armed Services, Natural Resources, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.