BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD
Iowa City community members gathered in the Iowa City Public Library on Tuesday to learn about and discuss U.S. military spending and defense strategy.
The U.N. Association of Iowa and the National Security Network invited Russell Rumbaugh, the director of budgeting for foreign affairs and defense at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., to give a lecture and invited locals to ask questions about defense spending.
Approximately 40 people attended the event, and the most important question on the table was whether defense spending actually reflects defense strategy. Largely, it does not.
“There is not always a strategy between national defense and defense spending,” Rumbaugh said. “There is an estimate that the cost of the war was less than what we spend, but we are turning our military into a standing force.”
Rumbaugh highlighted some of the most powerful political forces of the past, which allowed the base defense budget to be stable throughout the ages, despite military strategy.
For example, President Obama released strategic plans last month saying that the United States would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and focus more attention on the Asian-Pacific region. Reasonably, one may assume that this strategy would be reflected by cuts in Army spending and possible reallocations of funds to the Navy, but that may not necessarily prove true.
The Defense Department has not yet released a budget proposal for next year, as it normally would have done by this time. Debates for next year’s proposals are still underway.
Although defense spending is not always featured in the daily news cycle, Iowa City community members should still consider the federal deficit. While we may feel sometimes isolated from the federal issue, defensive strategy affects every taxpayer, and it is important to understand and discuss the implications of international policy. The discussion is being held this week in the nation’s capital; it should also take place here.
“We invited him [Rumbaugh] because we do cover an array of global issues including international security and peace, and we thought it would be interesting to bring the budget perspective into the conversation,” said Yashar Vasef, the executive director of the Iowa U.N. Association. “He is one of the leading experts when it comes to the defense budget, so we were very honored to have him here.”
Rumbaugh not only works for the Stimson Center now, he has also worked as a professional staff member on the Senate Budget Committee and as a Pentagon program analyst. He was excited to come to Iowa City because his goal at the Stimson Center is to bring the discussion back to the people, and it’s time for us to consider those facts.
“As far as the defense budget, I personally would agree that it is not set by what is happening worldwide but rather by what’s been set in place politically since the Nixon administration,” Vasef said. “I think there are some unfortunate consequences because of that and funds could perhaps be going to other departments and services.”
Defense spending is an important topic for all Americans because our military keeps us safe and also furthers international interests. Still, it is important that all Americans, even those here in Iowa, pressure their representatives to find solutions that protect the United States, keep us strong, but still are strategic and affordable.
“The more money you spend, the more insurance you can buy,” Rumbaugh said. “We don’t know what the future holds, but if you try to cover all of your bases, that is probably more money than you can spend.”