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How Defense Budget Cuts Are Affecting National Security Research Paper


The American constitution gives the Congress the mandate to provide for the common defense of the nation as well as its general welfare. However, it does not provide information that defines the term ‘common defense’. Additionally, it does not give any specific guidelines for the budgetary allocation of the defense budget. For the last few decades, most of the Americans were of the opinion that common defense entails the activities of a single agency, the Department of Defense (DoD), in enhancing national security (Brook 33).

However, national security can only be achieved by coordinating the several state agencies and requires sufficient funding/budgetary allocation. The defense budget cuts are making many Americans feel insecure since all the agencies involved may not be able to function effectively due to the lack of funds and the development of modern threats to national security. The defense budget cut will impair the efficiency of the bodies responsible for the maintenance of national security.

Defense budget in the U.S

A significantly large portion of the United States’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is used in funding the agencies under the National Security Council. The agencies include Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Treasury and the Department of Transport among others. The increase in military expenditure began after the Second World War. Prior to the War, the budgetary allocation of national defense was less than 2% of the GDP.

This proportion increased during the war whereby national security expenditure required a third of the GDP. According to Wilkerson and Williams, the expenditure dropped after the Second World War to less than 7% of the GDP (50). However, the expenditure rose again to over 14% due to the Korean War, Cold War and the Vietnam War during the 1950s and the 1960s.

Towards the end of the1970s, the expenditure on national defense had dropped to 7% of the GDP and the decline in the expenditure/budget continued for the next two decades. In 2000, the national defense expenditure had dropped to 3.8% of the GDP, which is the lowest expenditure that has ever been recorded in the history of the U.S. Over the last one decade, national security has exhibited an increasing trend in its expenditure.

The increase of the national defense budget over the last one decade is justifiable. The United States has been experiencing some non-traditional threats to national security. They include terrorist attacks from some of the world’s famous terrorists, drug trafficking and cyber attacks, which threaten the well-being of the United States.

Other forms of national threats include the spread of infectious diseases and energy threats. Besides the potential threats, the other factor that calls for sufficient funding of the national defense system is the complexity of the contemporary global security environment.

Its key features include stiff competition for the scarce natural resources, population changes and economic struggles. Additionally, many nations are fighting for not only regional but also global power, a battle that the Americans have to face. The recent advancements in technology also pose a threat to the national security system since a single computer command can cause as much damage as the previous decades armed forces.

For effective national security, the Congress has to consider the different parties that should be involved in ensuring national security. This stands as a fundamental aspect in strengthening the national defense capacity. The main areas that have to be addressed keenly are diplomacy, defense, intelligence, strategic communication systems, homeland security and the general economic development of the nation. Coordination of all these areas is essential in providing defense against any form of modern threats.

The reduction of the national defense budget may hinder the coordination of various parties responsible for maintaining national security due to the lack of sufficient resources. Consequently, the United States will be vulnerable to the insecurity from both local fugitives and terrorist groups.

Research has shown that the in the past, United States always regretted the reduction of the national security budget (for both the Department of Defense and the intelligence community). The lack of huge conflicts that call for strong defensive mechanisms should not be a guide to the reduction of the defense budget.

If the government does not invest adequately in building the nation’s defenses, then it might find itself in the future rebuilding them in case of an attack. As aforementioned, the modern forms of security threats such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons, biological and chemical attacks call for America to build effective defense against them.

The effects of the cut to national security

The reduction on the amount of money allocated to national defense reduces the capability of maintaining national security, an aspect the U.S cannot afford since other nations are embarking on strengthening their weapons. For instance, China has been able to field diesel submarines, an aircraft carrier, cyber-weapons and a J-20 stealth fighter.

It has also build ‘carrier-killers’ and among other missiles, a satellite-killer ballistic missile. China is able to contest the freedom of movement of the Navy in the Western Pacific. The other nations that present a threat to the United States national security are North Korea and Iran due to their involvement in the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Terrorist groups also present an eminent attack on the Americans. Such groups include the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Al-Shabab in Somalia as well as the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Boot 17). These terrorist groups threaten not only the American interests abroad but also the American homeland. For instance, Pakistan’s Taliban recently sponsored an attempt of a terrorist attack to set off a car bomb in Times Square. Additionally, another terrorist group (AQAP) attempted to mail parcel bombs into the U.S soil.

The fact that the American military forces are unable to ascertain the safety of the U.S navy base in Guam, Okinawa and other places shows that the national defense requires more resources. The cut on the defense budget not only threatens the maintenance of the American military power but also narrows its chances of expansion an aspect that threatens the ability of the national defense forces to provide security to the U.S citizens.

The American Navy is one of the most important military instruments in the nation. Most of the times, its operations are based many miles from U.S shores and it does not require any authorization from other sovereign nations to do so an aspect that extends the defense perimeter of the U.S Homeland security.

This gives it the ability to perform some of the roles of Homeland security boosting the national security. It is able to perform surveillance of both airborne and seaborne threats besides gathering information for security purposes. It is also able to disrupt terrorist attacks ashore since there is a decrease in the acceptance of U.S troops stationing abroad.

The navy plays other important roles as far as national security is concerned. It provides for modulated military response, effective conventional deterrent and bolsters critical security balances (McGrath 50). It provides America’s survivable nuclear deterrent besides fostering defense, diplomacy and development.

However, the Navy is currently facing some threats. Certain nations e.g. China have heavily invested in the development of a series of networked and technologically advanced weapons and sensors with the aim of denying the United states’ naval forces the freedom of maneuver, which is the primary source of the U.S sea power. The military drawdowns over the past four decades led to a 33% reduction of the resources of the Department of the Navy.

This includes 18% reduction of its work force and a similar reduction of its battle force. It is evident that the naval force is already strained. Therefore, any further cuts that affect the availability of resources will be affecting a force that has already grown smaller and worn out due to its participation in wars in the past. The result would be the inability of the navy to not only maintain but also to gain sea control, which is currently threatened, posing a threat to national security.

It is evident that the cut of the defense budget will reduce the number of personnel in the various bodies that deal with the maintenance of national security. Some of the cuts such as the reduction in the number of F-22 fighters, missile defense interceptors, navy cruisers, strategic delivery systems and missile-defense interceptors are detrimental to the integrity of the national defense forces.

Rumsfeld notes that such reductions “leave America ill-prepared for a conventional conflict and erode the strong deterrent necessary to prevent it” (5). There will also be a reduction of the number of the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, correctional officers, federal prosecutors as well as the Customs and Border Patrol/protection agents.

According to Fields and Block, customs and border protection personnel constitute a relatively large proportion of the homeland security-more than a third (15). Their role being the inspection of every person and product that enters the U.S, the cut will increase the polarity of the U.S borders due to lack of sufficient personnel. The cut will also occur in the Federal Aviation Administration lowering the body’s ability to carry out its duties i.e. to manage and oversee the nation’s airspace.

Its ability to control air traffic will also be impaired paving way for space attacks. The agricultural sector’s ability to inspect all the food-processing plants will be undermined. As a result, the safety of the food products available in the American market might be jeopardized due to the processor’s deliberate failure to meet all the food production standards. This poses a threat to the health of the people.

The cut on the defense budget will affect the operations of the National Security Space Architect (NSSA). NSSA was established to enhance the co-operation of the DoD and the intelligence community. It develops, coordinates and integrates the space system architectures of the two bodies for the provision of better defense.

Ferell stated that the NSSA is embarking on a comprehensive plan for enhancing national security that projects the space and programmatic needs of the two bodies (5). He added that the project would need some assets that are necessary for the acceleration of the certain technologies that may not be available with the resources that are at their disposal. Lack of sufficient funds will slow down or even sabotage the acquisition of the technologies, which renders the U.S defenseless.

The proponents of the cut on the defense budget argue that the amount spend on the U.S armed forces undermine the economic development of the nation which is the backbone of national security. Research has shown that currently the national defense spending, which also includes all supplemental appropriations, accounts for less than 5% of the GDP and less than 25% of the federal budget.

Compared to the national defense expenditure of most of the last century, the current expenditure is low implying that the budget does not need to be cut-it is eminently affordable. Following the report of the bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel chaired by Stephen Hadley and William Perry, to achieve full military ability for national security, the U.S needs to increase the budgetary allocation for defense.

The panel found out that there “is a growing gap between our interests and our military capability to protect those interests in the face of a complex and challenging security environment” (Boot 18). The reduction of the national defense budget implies that the nation will not be able to achieve all its interests as far as national security is concerned which may instill fear in the citizens.

The defense budget cut will have a negative impact on the already strained military health care. It will lead to the provision of poor medical services to the military personnel lowering their productivity. Consequently, the efficiency of the military in providing national security will decline which is a great risk to the American community. The effect will not only be felt within the military but also to all the civil servants whose sole duty is to ensure the security of the nation. The nation will become vulnerable to foreign pressures.

The United States may not be able to defend itself against rogue states such as Iran without a fully developed missile defense system. The system is expected to be operational in 2018 (Armellini 1). The defense budget cuts may slow the process of developing such an important defense tool rendering the nation unable to protect itself effectively from missile attacks from not only rogue nations but also terrorist groups.

Additionally, the United States government needs to increase the availability of the number of unmanned drones and more forms of spy plane technology to enhance national security. The lack of enough funds for such technologies would increase the number of security threats due to missile and other airspace attacks.

The armed forces would not be able to defend the nation effectively in such attacks. Owing to the global technological advancement in the development of weapons, the United States requires a continual upgrade of their technologies, which may not be possible due to lack of resources. In such an instance, the national defense system will not be able to protect the nation against attacks in the near future.

Since 1990, the force has exhibited a declining trend. For instance, during that time, the navy had 546 ships and this figure has reduced to 288. The army currently has 45 brigades as compared to 76 brigades in 1990. Research has also shown that the air force had twice as many fighter squadrons and bombers as there are today (Merklinghaus 17).

The armed forces need to recruit more personnel since it is ageing with time. If the cuts of the national defense budget push through, the United States will end up in an unbalanced defense force that is not modernized which may affect the lives of many Americans.


The defense budget cut will impair the efficiency of the bodies responsible for the maintenance of national security. The cut hinders the development of technologically advanced weapons rendering the nation defenseless. The lack of sufficient funds will result into the provision of poor healthcare services to the armed forces lowering their ability to defend the nation against attacks.

The cut will force the National Security Council to down size on its personnel, which is detrimental to national security especially due to the increased polarity at the borders. The decrease of the strength of the United States defense forces will render the nation vulnerable to the attacks of terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban among others. Other nations such as Japan, North Korea and China are heavily investing in advancing their weapons.

The defense budget cuts will pave way for these nations to overpower the U.S, which is a threat to the nation. Politically, the 2012 general elections will determine the fate of national defense depending on the elected president since the candidates hold different opinions concerning the national defense budget.

Works Cited

Armellini, Mark. “Roundup: Dramatic US Defense Cuts on the Way, Panneta Warns NATO.” McClatchy-Tribune Business News, 1.3 (2011): 1-6. Print

Boot, Max. “Slashing American Defense: A Suicidal Trajectory.” Commentary, 133.1 (2012): 14-19. Print.

Brook, Douglas. “Budgeting for National Security: A Whole of Government Perspective.” A Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management,4.1 (2012): 32-57. Print.

Ferell, Stephen. “NSSA Eyes National Security Plan to Outline Future Budget Needs.” Defense Daily International, 3.12 (2002): 1-5. Print

Fields, Gary, and Block, Robert. “Homeland Security Freezes Hiring; Potential Budget Shortfall of $1.2 Billion is Affecting two Big Front-line Units.” Wall Street Journal, 4 (2004): 15-16. Print.

McGrath, Bryan. “The necessity of Dominant American Sea Power.” U.S Naval Institute Proceedings 137.1 (2011): 48-53. Print.

Merklinghaus, Dennis. “Are the Cuts to the Defense Budget Necessary?” News Digital Weekly, 3.44 (2011): 17. Print.

Rumsfeld, Donald. “The Peril of Deep Defense Cuts; Our country has taken an axe to the national security budget after every war of the 20th century. And every time we later regretted it.” Wall Street Journal, 21 (2011): 5-11. Print.

Wilkerson, Chad, and Williams, Megan. “How is the Rise in National Defense Affecting the Tenth District Economy.” Economy Review, 2 (2008): 49-80. Print.

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"How Defense Budget Cuts Are Affecting National Security." IvyPanda, 20 Nov. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/how-defense-budget-cuts-are-affecting-national-security/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "How Defense Budget Cuts Are Affecting National Security." November 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-defense-budget-cuts-are-affecting-national-security/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'How Defense Budget Cuts Are Affecting National Security'. 20 November.

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