Debates over Military Funding

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October 28, 2011

The Joint Selection Committee on Deficit Reduction to reduce government spending by 1.2 trillion dollars faces a looming deadline and conflicts over what means to achieve this goal. In a recent article by Donna Cassata for the Associated Press, both political parties are urging members of the committee to stay away from eliminating military expenditures. The government has decreased the military’s funding during the past summer and there are indications that more cuts will follow. Based on the drop in finances, House Speaker John Boehner (R) stated, “I would argue that they’ve taken more than their fair share of the hits.”

As stated in previous blogs, the committee must reach a deadline by November 23, 2011. If unmet, automatic cuts would occur and nearly half of those cuts would focus on the military. With these fears in mind, Cassata states that lawmakers are asking the super committee to look at other means so not to reduce national defense funding. Adam Smith, a Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is quoted as saying:

“If we don’t step up and confront the problem with either revenue or spending outside the defense budget, give the supercommittee somewhere to go, give people who want to control the deficit, including our bond raters, somewhere to go, inevitably defense is going to be crushed.”

The military receives a large amount of government funding (an estimated $700 billion since 9/11). Teachers could use this article to introduce a classroom discussion about the appropriate level of military spending. The lesson could be guided by the following questions:  Why has the government recently reduced military spending? What are the implications, both positive and negative, of this decision? What priority should military spending have in relation to other government programs like education, healthcare, etc.?

Students could also participate in a role-play acting as members of the super committee and the defense committee, in which they discuss the financial needs of the military. By doing so, students would develop a better understanding of the challenges the super committee faces, explore viable options they could consider, and examine the defense committee’s logic for maintaining their current level of funding.

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