Sling load inspector checks the load plan paperwork prior to sling load operations with the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion March 22, 2016 at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany

commentary

(War on the Rocks)

November 6, 2017

The Long-Term Budget Shortfall and National Security: A Problem the United States Should Stop Avoiding

Sling load inspector checks the load plan paperwork prior to sling load operations at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 22, 2016

Photo by William B. King/U.S. Army

by Howard Shatz

Every year, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases a long-term budget outlook, usually during the summer. But it might just as well be Groundhog Day.

In the 2011 outlook, noting poor long-term budget trends, the CBO's analysts wrote on page 33:

A large amount of debt could also harm national security by constraining military spending in times of crisis or limiting the country's ability to prepare for a crisis.

The same or similar passages appeared in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In the 2017 outlook, the most recent report, devotees of the warning could find it on page 6:

A large debt also can compromise a country's national security by constraining military spending in times of international crisis or by limiting its ability to prepare for such a crisis.

The newly released Trump administration tax plan has reintroduced the issue of the U.S. federal deficit and debt. There will surely be a robust debate about current spending, taxation, and program priorities. But inevitably lost in this debate will be an issue that policymakers have avoided for years and appear intent to continue to avoid: the strongly negative long-term budget outlook. Bold promises and even actions that bring the budget into balance for the short term should not mask the fact that the U.S. government has failed to face its long-term budget problems....

The remainder of this commentary is available on warontherocks.com.


Howard J. Shatz is a senior economist at the nonpartisan, nonprofit RAND Corporation, where he focuses on international economics and economics and national security. He is the author of U.S. International Economic Strategy in a Turbulent World (RAND Corporation, 2016).

This commentary originally appeared on War on the Rocks on November 6, 2017. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.