Since the announcement of Paul Ryan as Gov. Romney's pick for his running mate there have been numerous articles in defense circles about Ryan's budget proposal, how it might impact the defense budget and veteran's issues, the lack of veteran experience on either ticket (for the first time since the 1920s neither presidential ticket has a veteran at either the President or Vice President position), and whether either team is up to the task of dealing with the challenges threatening the long-term security of our country.
I think Romney's selection of Paul Ryan was brilliant and I am encouraged by what it says about the perspective of both men regarding the future of our country. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has more detailed knowledge of our current and projected-future budget and fiscal problems than probably anyone else in Congress. He knows and appreciates the fact that if we don't get our fiscal house in order, we won't have much ability to do anything--military or otherwise.
Here are a couple of items that I think provide some good commentary about Ryan's views on such topics and Romney's related perspective: Romney's brilliant foreign policy choice and Stephens: Paul Ryan's Neocon Manifesto. I take these to say that Ryan isn't a fool and that he understands the severity of the long-term threat to America's strength and viability posed by our growing national debt. His guiding principles, as Stephens points out, include a deep appreciation for national defense because he believes that America and what it stands for are worth defending. He also understands that unless we get our currently out-of-control budget under control, we won't be able to defend squat much less see to our interests abroad.
As a retired Marine I certainly have an abiding personal interest in the promises made to me and all of those who have served our country. While my service was driven by my 'love of country' and my desire to contribute as much as possible to the greater good, my country (via our defense policies) agreed to reward such service with various pay-and-benefit packages that include a pension and healthcare coverage. I served a total of 24 years in uniform, deploying all over the world and doing whatever I was directed to do in peacetime and in war. I kept up my end of the bargain and I expect our government to hold true to its word. That said, our nation has so frittered away our national wealth that we find ourselves in a massive hole that threatens our very future. I personally believe our country will have to discipline itself to a level we haven't had to deal with since WWII if we are to remain the world's preeminent power.
Our military has the smallest numbers of ships and airplanes since prior to WWI. Our equipment is terribly aged as a result of continuous ops for over a decade. Yes, we need to ensure broken equipment is fixed and old equipment is replaced. It is also the case that personnel costs are a major portion of the budget and healthcare costs threaten to consume the defense budget if something isn't done to correct the situation. There are no easy answers and I suspect we as veterans will have to share some amount of the burden all Americans will be (should be) called upon to bear. I have no worries that should Gov. Romney be elected--and I profoundly hope his is--he will ensure our military is properly funded and our country's obligations to our veterans are honored. We have historically spent roughly 4.5% of GDP on defense and I've not heard or read of any serious proposals from either camp to change that.
Lastly, please note the emphasis that President Eisenhower placed on economic issues and tax policy in this Radio Address to the American People on the National Security and Its Costs, broadcast May 19, 1953. Having served as the Supreme Commander for Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, he knew a thing or two about what it takes to win a war against a determined foe. Given this, I find his perspective on the importance of a strong national economy all the more instructive especially given the fact we were at that point in time facing a rising and war-experienced Soviet Union.