Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., says the Egyptian turmoil and the threat of rising tensions in the Mideast make it the wrong time for Congress to consider slashing the defense budget, despite calls from some of his GOP colleagues that cuts are needed to contain the soaring national debt.
“I disagree with those in my own party who think that we have to cut
defense now for appearances’ sake, so that we seem like we are serious about taking on the national debt and the deficit,” Hunter – a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – said in an interview Friday night with Fox News’ Neal Cavuto.
“We are already at historic lows of 3.6 percent of GDP, and I would argue that it is actually dangerous for us to go any lower,” Hunter said. “I would argue that talking about defense spending – especially by Republicans – before looking at all of the different entitlement programs that are what are actually breaking America, is a little bit disingenuous.”
House Republican leaders specifically exempted defense, homeland security and veterans' programs from spending cuts in their party's "Pledge to America" campaign manifesto last fall. But the House's new majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., has said defense programs could join others on the cutting board.
The defense budget is about $700 billion annually. Few in Congress have been willing to make cuts as U.S. troops fight in Afghanistan and finish the operation in Iraq.
Cavuto asked whether the huge national debt is in itself not one of the biggest threats to national security. The congressman agreed, but countered larger financial threats could be imminent without complete military readiness.
“Well, absolutely. I mean, yes, the national debt is seen as a national security threat,” Hunter said. “But if you look at 9/11, Neil, and what happened after that security lapse, the economy tanked.
“Well, let me ask you, though, what is it worth to you to have American interests secured? What is it worth to us to not have another 9/11?” he continued. “I guess that’s the ultimate question.”
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