Obama Holds Firm on Defense Cuts After the Super Committee's Demise

The failure of the super committee to do its duty means that Americans have a government that's frozen, unable to meet the challenges of the moment and trapped in decision-making gridlock. The bigger picture of this drama is that Congress is seemingly unable to roll back the $15 trillion in debt that our nation holds, demonstrating that it neither has the political space nor the creative energy to tackle our country's financial woes while also protecting our nation's priorities, such as defense, health care, education, and our seniors.

Yet while the super committee failed to ensure that all Americans pay their fair share to fix our nation's economy, already the voices that helped get us into this mess are threatening to put us in an even worse place. In particular, those who call for unsustainably high levels of defense spending are threatening to upend the sequester triggers that ensure that cuts to defense spending take place.

Fortunately, President Obama has been leading on this issue since the creation of the super committee and is continuing to do so. In particular, his veto threat against undoing the defense cuts that have been triggered by the super committee's demise should be applauded. This is the kind of leadership that the country needs and that Congress so desperately lacks.

The voices calling for a repeal of the defense cuts should be ignored. If these cuts are not made, there is a real possibility that we will be thrown back into the fiscal chaos of last summer that created the super committee in the first place.

The good news of this debate is that if Congress moves beyond the question of whether to repeal the defense cuts, and actually looks at options for cutting defense spending levels in line with the Budget Control Act of 2011, it will find very sound solutions for cutting defense spending while also protecting our security both at home and abroad. Specifically, it will find that it can cut our spending on nuclear weapons.

Cutting nuclear spending is a real solution to the debt dilemma. As a country, we are slated to spend $700 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next ten years. This spending is misaligned with 21st century security threats. Nuclear weapons don't deal with the threats of today, such as terrorism or cyber attacks. Our current nuclear posture is configured to fight the Soviet Union, an enemy that doesn't even exist anymore, rather than the threats of today.

This needs to change, both to meet our defense challenges and to protect our economic security.

Let's be clear: current levels of defense spending are unsustainably high, causing harm to our nation's fiscal security. And the planned excessive spending on nuclear weapons provides minimal marginal value to our nation's defense. The annual price tag for these weapons is too high, both for our military, who needs to use dwindling resources to address the threats of today, and for our economic security at home.

So while the super committee may have failed, the fight to resolve the nation's fiscal woes goes on. And President Obama has laid down a very important marker to protect our nation's defense and economic well-being. He understands that we need to make hard choices to protect our country's priorities, such as our nation's defense. Cutting spending on nuclear weapons will help us get there. We really have no choice on the matter, as we can't protect our country if we run out of money.

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