"We have walked blindly, ignoring the lessons of our past, in our century, the tragic consequences of two world wars and the Korean struggle as a result."
These words were delivered in 1953 by U.S. Army Gen. George Catlett Marshall in his legendary "Essentials to Peace" speech to the Nobel Committee. Marshall had led America through World War II, served as secretary of State, and secretary of Defense. He saw how weakness was an invitation to aggression. And he saw the bloody consequences of sending our forces into harm's way unprepared.
After three astoundingly bloody conflicts, Marshall's warning was clear: Complacency amongst responsible nations is one of the greatest threats to world peace.
Three war theaters, yet cuts?
I fear we are ignoring the wisdom of our greatest soldier statesman. For the past two years, the Pentagon has suffered cut after damaging cut, killing off vital military modernization programs and atrophying our military's end strength. Yet after pilfering our national security budget to pay for more entitlement programs and irresponsible social spending, President Obama announced plans to cut a jaw-dropping $400 billion from the defense budget over a 12-year period.
We do this in a time when America is embroiled in three different theaters of war. We do this as our nation faces myriad difficult and emerging threats, such as cyber warfare and the constantly evolving tactics of terrorists. We do this as the People's Liberation Army defense minister boasts that China is "preparing for war in all directions."
I believe in peace, and I pray for peace. But, like General Marshall, I am clear about how peace is sustained. Stability rests on the shoulders of the American military.
President Obama's announcement earlier this month on Pentagon cuts was nothing short of shocking. It came after little consultation with his Defense Department. There appears to have been no consideration of threats, of deterrence, of logistics, or capabilities — or even the effect such cuts would have on our three wars, our troops, or our national security.
If implemented, this plan would intensify the stresses on our troops while eliminating the resources available to them to accomplish their missions. Simply put, this is irresponsible leadership and disrespectful of the immense sacrifice our fighting men and women have made on behalf of this Republic.'Potentially calamitous'
In his first two years of office, this administration has ballooned domestic spending to astonishing levels. At the same time, the Obama Defense Department cut back or canceled more than 20 major military modernization systems and slashed our strategic nuclear deterrent — all while opening a third theater of war in Libya.
After cutting $78 billion from the defense budget earlier this year, and harvesting $100 billion more in projected savings in 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that we had reached the "minimum level of defense spending that is necessary" to meet the complex threats of the 21st century. Anything further, Gates said, would be "potentially calamitous."
I doubt even Secretary Gates imagined a $400 billion cost-cutting plan that would wholly gut the military and callously endanger the American homeland. Not during wartime, not as the Middle East teeters on the verge of anarchy, and not as our soldiers are in harm's way.
I respect and will defend the president's authority as commander in chief. But as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I believe it is my duty to clearly communicate the deeply perilous situation the White House is unnecessarily creating.
There are reasonable ways to cut waste in the defense budget. Oversight and acquisition reform can help us spend defense dollars smartly. But carving out critical capabilities while our nation is at war is simply wrongheaded.
The defense cuts of the recent past, present, and future will weaken our nation, leave us vulnerable to attack and hasten in an unmistakable era of American decline.
It is my sincere hope that this myopic, dangerous plan to hollow out our military was simply political bluster ahead of his 2012 presidential campaign, as it would be deeply concerning if a wartime president was to ignore the advice of his own military experts and entrust our national defense to accountants.
I will not stand idly by while the commander in chief strips our troops of the tools they need to accomplish the tasks laid out by his White House. I will not sit back and watch as our military decays from stress and our allies are left unsure of our resolve. And I will not accept these cuts without a fight.
After a storied career as a soldier and a statesman, George Marshall dedicated one of the most important speeches of his life to cautioning against unpreparedness and complacency. The president has just opened the door to calamity and chaos. I believe it is Congress' responsibility to close it.
Published in USA Today