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National Security Budget Center of Budget Debate

History tends to repeat itself, politics included. The United States has a Democratic president who superseded President Bush, a Republican House of Representatives, and the federal government may have to shut down because the president refuses to pass an appropriations bill that cuts tens of billions from the President’s budget. No, it is not 1995 again. But it is very close.

On February 15, 2011, the White House said that President Obama will veto H.R. 1 (the House spending bill) which proposes to cut $60 billion from current discretionary spending levels, such as $3 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency. The White House stated the bill “proposes cuts that would sharply the undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation, and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the Department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements.” The Republicans in the House are trying to fulfill a campaign promise to cut $100 billion in discretionary spending. The current continuing spending resolution expires on March 4. The federal government may have to essentially shutdown if the new budget is not passed, as it did for 26 days in 1995.

If the new spending bill is not passed, government workers will not be paid, including military and national security employees. Government employees that are not deemed “essential” will not go to work. If a compromise cannot be reached, most government operations will come to a holt. Like in 1995, the government will have to furlough many of its employees, meaning several agencies that are key to national security may be short staffed. Also, the government will not be able to perform certain services and pay out benefits such as sending out social security checks and processing passport applications. Government agencies that are self-funded will continue to function if a new

budget is not passed.

In 1995 the government wasted over $400 million when it had to pay for furloughed federal employees who were paid, but did not report to work. However, there is no guarantee that government will be reimbursed for time lost. It’s up to Congress to decide whether to compensate employees for the time lost and loss to benefits, and lawmakers might not be disposed to do so during the current financial environment. The House is discussing a short-term spending bill to give law makers two more weeks to negotiate between Democrats and Republicans. However, a short-term spending bill was also passed before the 1995 government shutdown.

The ability to pay for The United States’ robust national security forces are a major issue for the budget. Recent financial debacles such as the overly priced Joint Strike Fighter, have made the defense budget a foremost issue in national security law. New initiatives to national security will probably have to go through greater financial scrutiny before receiving approval. Also, when devising new security regulations, lawmakers will have to ask themselves whether they can afford it. Both sides of the debate appear to be both willing to blame the other side and be open to compromise. House Majority Leader Representative Eric Cantor pronounced that “government shutdown is not an acceptable or responsible option [. . .].” However, at the same time, Cantor, as well as Democrats, are quick to blame the other side for lack of cooperation and for being irresponsible. With the shutdown only a few days away, national security in the United States may be drastically affected by a lack of funding.


 


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