As the Obama administration announces proposed sweeping defense cuts, a Congressional Budget Office report documents how increases in other areas of domestic spending may be forcing the White House to reduce money for the military.
The CBO report finds that mandatory spending, which includes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is projected to rise $85 billion, or 4 percent, to $2.1 trillion this year.
Interest on the debt is worse. It is projected to increase 14 percent per year, almost quadrupling in dollar terms between 2014 and 2024. "We are going to be spending more in interest in a couple of years then we do on national defense," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., told Fox News.
The Obama administration acknowledges the defense cuts are controversial but maintains they are being done with a specific intention:"...in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority and to protect critical capabilities like special operations forces and cyber resources," Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters Monday.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen , D-Md., told Fox News the draw down from two wars is a logical time to save defense money. "We do not need for the defense of our country to be able to have a defense doctrine that calls for fighting two land wars at the same time," he said.
But history is filled with hard lessons in disarmament. Churchill warned a pacifist Britain, worn out from massive loss of life in World War I, of its unpreparedness for war with Germany as early as 1934. In 1936, he said in a speech to a disinterested Parliament, "A lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes... until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong... these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history."
McKeon offers a contemporary reprise of Churchill’s words. "The price is going to be paid for this whether it's in the Middle East, whether it's in the Pacific, whether it's in Europe," he said. "I don't know where. I don't know when. I don't know how, but some bad actor is going to challenge us."
House Republicans may have some leverage over the cuts and they can appropriate money for defense programs at higher amounts than the Pentagon calls for. And while Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told the Washington Examiner late Tuesday the defense cuts are "dead on arrival," the Senate Majority leader deferred judgment.
"I'm running the Senate...we'll weigh it when it gets here,"Harry Reid told reporters.
It’s not just Republicans who have concerns about the defense cuts. When and if military assembly lines slow and bases potentially close in Democratic districts, the cuts may find greater bi-partisan opposition.