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How Out of Control Entitlement Spending Is Draining the Defense Budget

Unless dramatically reformed, entitlement programs will soon choke out funding for even the most basic and fundamental nation defense capabilities, according a recent report from The Heritage Foundation.

The year 1973 saw mandatory government spending (Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare) outpace defense spending for the first time. Uninterrupted ever since, there is little doubt that ballooning entitlement spending will continue to soak up greater and greater amounts of the federal budget. Recent CBO findings report, "almost all of the projected growth in federal spending other than interest payments on the debt comes from growth in spending on the three largest entitlement programs--Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security." Indeed, with Social Security growing 147%, Medicaid growing 166%, and Medicare ballooning to a whopping 331% from 2005 to 2030, the federal government's entitlement spending will leave US GDP (expected to grow 72% during that same time) in the financial dust. This holds devastating consequences for US national defense capability as needed funds are cut from the military and directed instead to feed swollen entitlement programs.

In fact, the mighty US military is already on the chopping block, as seen in the FY 2010 defense budget. According to the CBO, the bill's "overseas contingency operations" funding represents a decrease of 10 percent from the amount appropriated for 2009 for the same operations. "The decreases are primarily in accounts for military personnel and procurement," or equipment and basic military hardware. As Heritage's Baker Spring writes, the Administration's defense budget "provides insufficient resources for the core defense program" and that as a result, "the core defense budget will fall to less than 3.3 percent of GDP in 2014," not enough to keep up with rising military costs.

According to the CRS, "an average military service member is about 45% more expensive, after adjusting for inflation, in FY2009 than in FY1998." Spring and others at Heritage have long maintained that a floor of 4 percent of GDP is required for defense spending to stay effective in the face of rising costs. If this seems too high, consider that this proposed benchmark is "only 40 percent of total spending on the three major entitleĀ¬ment programs."

America's military may be facing defeat at the hands of its own government if entitlement programs are not dramatically reformed in the immediate future.

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