Pitting defense expenditures against entitlement spending doesn’t add up, said Todd Harrison, senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. There’s an “underlying structural deficit” that the United States has to address to resolve the current budget quandary, said Harrison during a June 21 press briefing in Washington, D.C. In 2000, the Congressional Budget Office expected a surplus of $5.6 trillion in government revenues by 2011, he said. Instead, by 2011, the United States was indebted $11 trillion, he said. Defense spending was only 16 percent higher than the CBO projected when CBO expected a surplus. Entitlement spending was only higher by 4 percent. The largest discrepancy between the CBO’s projections and the reality was a revenue decrease of 52%, a combination of the Bush-era tax cuts and the Great Recession, said Harrison. He said there’s no easy solution; austerity calls for concessions from the political left and right. The US government has to have revenues to protect and provide for its population; the revenues have to come from somewhere, he said. “The political parties change,” said Harrison, “but the math stays the same.” (For more Harrison coverage, read Learn from the Past.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.