Under the current administration, the U.S. defense budget is undergoing radical reductions that will impact the economic stability of the local economy as well as our long-term national and international security.
Right now, the U.S. has 1.4 million active duty troops and, according to the comptroller at the Department of Defense, will spend $525.4 billion in 2013. (To put that number into perspective, the annual cost of the U.S. Social Security program is approximately $860 billion.)
Under the plan being implemented by Obama and the Democrats, over the next 10 years the DoD budget will be reduced by approximately 20 percent. Specifically, current defense spending as a percentage of GDP is 4.5 percent. Under Obama's current plan, it is being reduced to 2.5 percent, the lowest level in modern history.
While there is speculation about the tangible results of these cuts, in 2011, previous Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta framed their implication by pointing out they would yield the smallest ground force since before World War II, the smallest Navy since before World War I, the smallest fighter force in the history of the Air Force, and the smallest civilian workforce in the history of DoD.
Even if the cuts play out a bit differently than Panetta anticipates, the conclusions from the statistics are clear: there are significant reductions in soldiers and supplies happening right now and over the next 10 years.
This is concerning to our community. Home to Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, NORAD and Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, there are approximately 40,000 active duty personnel stationed here. According to local economists, nearly one out of every three people is employed by the military or directly supported by military dollars. Add to those numbers the indirect dollars, like secondary employers, and it's clear that a 20 percent reduction in military spending could fiercely impact this economy.
While local economics are important and certainly pertain to the everyday lives of people, the international consequences are alarming.
With Mideastern countries (think Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, etc.) in turmoil, there is little doubt that U.S. involvement over the next 10 years, either as a stabilizing regional presence or an active combat force, is probable.
The Korean peninsula is an ongoing threat with the North continuing to push long-range missile development and continued antagonistic actions on their southern border.
Whether it's an active conflict regionally, an anti-terrorist operation, or a "peacekeeping" mission, it would be a mistake to assume that our operational commitments at home and abroad are magically going to shrink by 20 percent in alignment with the current budget cuts. These reductions place our military personnel in greater danger, reduce the ability for homeland defense, and almost certainly eliminate the option of fighting a two-front war.
Regardless of political affiliation, members of this community should have serious concern with the most aggressive military reductions this country has seen in recent history.
Nathan Fisk is a national business and political consultant residing in El Paso County. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.