Republican Tax Bill Could Hurt U.S. Military, According to Top Generals

America’s fiscal strength is inextricably linked to its military power, and the Senate tax bill, which passed at two in the morning on Saturday, will diminish the United States’ fiscal stability by adding between $1 trillion and $1.4 trillion to the Federal debt over the next decade, according to the non-partisan Coalition for Fiscal and National Security.

The Coalition, which consists of a group of 21 leaders in military defense including Mike Mullen, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Chuck Hagel, Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, has long warned that America’s long-term debt is the single greatest threat to its national security.

The U.S. national debt recently surpassed $20 trillion, and is on track to add an additional $10 trillion more over the next decade. While Republicans insist that their tax plan will pay for itself, Congressional Budget Office and Joint Taxation Committee analysis shows that the national debt will increase considerably under their plan.

Debt service encroaches on discretionary spending in the federal budget, and 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending goes to the U.S. military. Even so, defense spending has been in decline over the past decade due partially to Obama-era policy and partially because of mandatory cuts that are required under the Budget Control Act when spending ceilings are hit.

President Trump has ambitious plans for building up the military with 355 more ships, 1,200 more Air Force fighter jets and thousands more Marines. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said that those plans would require defense spending growth through at least 2023.

“We are committed — and we have done so on the Armed Services Committee — to increase the size of our military forces. Every additional 10,000 service members costs roughly $1.8 billion per year,” asked the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ranking member Jack Reed this week. “Where will we get that money when we’re going $1.5 trillion in debt to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?”

Reed insisted that the tax bill forgot about costly ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria which will cost tens of billions of dollars. He also said that the budget cuts triggered by the Senate tax plan will severely limit military preparedness for future events, like a possible conflict with North Korea.

“Anyone who is voting for this bill is essentially saying: ‘You know, I’ll talk a good story about supporting national security, but when it comes down to the money, it’s going to go to the wealthiest Americans,’” he told his fellow Senators.

In a letter addressed to Congress this month, three former defense secretaries, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel and Ash Carter, wrote that passing the Republican tax plan will mean that the Pentagon will be forced to cut spending “for training, maintenance, force structure, flight missions, procurement and other key programs.” The result, they wrote, is “the growing danger of a ‘hollowed out’ military force that lacks the ability to sustain the intensive deployment requirements of our global defense mission.” 

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