Last month I participated in a conference of mostly military officials and national security experts at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The conference title was “Economics and Security: Resourcing National Priorities.”
Since then the debates over economic stimulus versus deficit reduction got pretty hot and heavy, and a funny thing happened. I began to recognize quite a few parallels between the other fiscal policy issues I always write about, and this particular angle that I really have never written about: the role of defense and national security spending in achieving fiscal sustainability.
First, I think most Americans (regardless of what they think of our wars and military activity more generally) assume that cuts in the national security budget would weaken our defense capabilities -- that a trade-off exists between deficit reduction and a strong defense. But what surprised me the most at the Naval War College conference was learning that most of the national security officials and experts there, who all advocate for a strong defense, believed that if the defense budget were tightened, the quality of defense spending would actually improve.
All seemed to recognize that given...