Senator David Perdue: Our Debt Crisis Is Directly Impacting Our Ability To Protect Our Nation

“Our debt crisis, and a failed foreign policy, has served to confuse our allies and embolden our enemies. It threatens our ability to defend our country, period.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), a member of the Senate Budget and Foreign Relations Committees, today highlighted the impact the federal debt crisis is having on our country’s ability to support our military and protect our nation.



“The primary role of Congress is to responsibly fund the federal government. To do that, we must set clear national priorities that we can financially support. All too often, the process of setting – and then sticking to these national priorities – has become a purely political exercise, not a function of governing. It’s the number one complaint when I travel back to my home state of Georgia.  

Coming from the business world, I clearly see two interlocking crises we face as a country. First we have a global security crisis—the world may be more dangerous right now than at any point in my lifetime—interlocked with that is our national debt crisis, which threatens our ability to defending our country today.

As we begin the appropriations process, let’s take an honest look at what we’re appropriating for.

One of our top national priorities is to provide for the national defense. It’s one of only six reasons why 13 colonies got together in the first place and that is to provide for the national defense. However, under President Carter, Clinton, and Obama we’ve seen three different periods of investment in our military.

Our 30-year average of defense spending has been 4.1 percent of GDP. Following the Carter Administration, this is the first line over here to the left. The first dip, after that in the Reagan Administration, they recapped the military. This __had another decline. Then, we had another decline. You see the buildup in the surge in Afghanistan and Iraq behind the two wars. We’ve been at war for 15 yers. I believe in many cases we burn out our equipment and in cases we’re beginning to do that with our personnel, with longer tours and more difficult assignments in this hybrid war that we’re facing today. and then you see under this Administration, a further decline now to 3.1 percent.

This is the lowest point since the Vietnam War, and the irony of that is we’re still spending $600 billion of a $4 trillion total spending of the federal government on our military. The iron is the 30-year average of 4.2 percent we’re a hundred basis points below that which equates to with a 19 or $20 trillion economy. That’s $200 billion almost. The question is, is how do we determine the priorities to keep a strong military, to make sure we can fulfill one of the six reasons why we came together as a country.

We’re about to have the smallest Army since WWII, the smallest Navy since WWI, and the smallest and oldest Air Force ever. How can this be? The world is more dangerous right now than at any point in my lifetime.

We see increased aggression from traditional rivals, Russia and China. We also see the rise of ISIS partly because of our own intransigents and they’ve got to be stopped now or we’ll have to deal with them later here. Boko Haram, al Qaeda, ISIS, all of these threats are beginning to be interconnected and pose threats, not just in the Middle East, but around the world.

Finally, we have nuclear threats from rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran, and game-changing technologies such as cyber threats, which nations like Russia are using for hybrid warfare right now in Eastern Europe.

There’s an emerging arms race in space that we just don’t talk about publically. This is why our women and men in uniform need to have the tools and resources to complete their missions around the world. This fiscal crisis is jeopardizing our ability to actually fund the missions being asked of our military today.

Let me give two examples.

JSTARS is a fleet of planes, 16 in number. These planes in total are over a million hours of service. They were used when the air force bought them some 30 years ago. They were flown as commercial airlines—like Air India and Pakistan Air—around the world.

Today, they fly missions of oversight. The problems is they have outlived their useful life and they’re being replaced—or the theory was they were going to be replaced but because of our intransigents in Washington, the funding is not there to replace them so we’re now facing annual eight-year potential where we will not be able to fulfill their mission.

These are the planes that provide oversight for our men and women who are in harm’s way—in Afghanistan, Iraq, Southern Command, where we’re intercepting drugs, in the far east. Wherever men and women in American uniform face dangers, JSTARS is there protecting them in ways that no one else can in the military.

All of these planes have got to be replaced and the sooner we get started the better. They’re not able to fulfill their mission over the next eight years. This chart shows the declining availability of the current fleet, down to zero by 2023.  It also shows that under the current plan, pending DOD approval and funding, the replacement fleet doesn’t even start to come online until 2023—a start date that is now in jeopardy because of the current Administration’s budget request.

JSTARS recap is the number four acquisition priority for the Air Force—behind the long-range bomber, the new tanker, the F-35, and now JSTARS replacement. We are not going to be able to fulfill the mission of these airmen and soldiers over the next eight years unless we do something about it right now.  Even then, it might be too late.

This is a picture of a 57 Chevy—1957 Chevrolet. Most of you in this group, some of you will remember what this was like. I remember this car, which is a collector’s item. Some of my friends own this car. This car is of the same genre, the same age as the airplanes that we’re now flying around the world. That’s great, but imagine if this was your everyday car and you depended on it to get you to work every morning and at home at night.

What would you do if you had to drive it to the West Coast and back every week? Imagine what the maintenance time loss would be to break down. Imagine what it would be like traveling those distances without all the modern conveniences like satellite radio, Sirius, Pandora, What about the safety factor?

These are antiques and the point is this is a direct analogy of what we’re doing with our military today in a very dangerous world.

That sounds ridiculous but you know, we also have another example and that is our Marines around the world, who are the first to hit a crisis. In Moron, Spain, we have a contingent of Marines and their mission is to protect our embassies in Africa. Post-Benghazi that takes on a new level of importance. These Marines do a great job. They’re the very best of what we have in America. They’re ready to go. The problem is because of budget constraints, we’re having to cut their fleet of airplanes, the V-22 Ospreys, in half and that fundamentally cuts their mission in half. They’re not going to be able to fulfill the mission they have today the way that they’re supposed to because of our own intransigents.

So, what’s causing this great disinvestment in our military? Well, there’s only one answer. The national debt.

These two crises interlock in a way they never had before. It used to be defense hawks and budget hawks were separate people. Today, I’m living proof that they can embody themselves in the same person because I’m both. We have to be.

We no longer have the luxury of debating both issues separately. In the past seven years, Washington has spent $27 trillion running the federal government. That’s bad enough but the problem is we borrowed $9 trillion of that $25 trillion. That’s 35 percent.

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, says over the next 10 years we’ll borrow 30 percent of that. What that means, and why that’s important, is that fundamentally all of our mandatory spending, some $3 trillion, is mandatory.  So our first dollars go to that.

The problem with that is all of our discretionary spending—all of USAID, our foreign programs, and our expenditures—are fundamentally borrowed under that scenario and that’s where we are today. Can you imagine that?

With this level of borrowing, every dime we spend on foreign aid, and I want to reiterate---foreign aid, domestic programs, and military—we’re borrowing because we haven’t faced up to this crisis.

First you have the period here under President Bush. In 2000, our debt was $6 trillion. We added $4 trillion on the back of two wars. In 2008, we had $10 trillion of debt. Now we see we have another $9 trillion in the last seven years. We’ll be close to $20 trillion by the time we’re through. In the yellow here is what the Congressional Budget Office says we’re about to face. If we do nothing from today, we’ll add another $9 trillion to this federal debt, close to $30 trillion.

I’m a business guy and I know the capital markets are under great stress today. The danger of this is this is just totally unmanageable. If interest rates were to reach their 50-year average of just 5.5 percent, we’d be paying a $1 trillion in interest on a $4 trillion total budget. There’s no way that’s possible.  

Our debt crisis is directly impacting our ability to protect our nation and project power around the world. This puts in jeopardy our very ability to deal with these global threats as they come up every day—and believe me, they’re coming up every day.

Without a strong economy – without dealing with our debt crisis right now – we can’t adequately fund our military to confront the growing threats we face.

Our debt crisis is directly impacting our ability to protect our nation and project power. This puts in jeopardy our very ability to deal with these global threats as they come up every day, and believe me, they’re coming up every day.  

Without a strong economy – without dealing with our debt crisis right now – we can’t adequately fund our military. That’s a fact.

You know, it used to be that fiscal hawks and defense hawks, and I’ve said this, but today I see more people who are on one or the other are beginning to come together and recognize the other problem. They’re interrelated in a way they’ve never been.

Believe me, we need a strong defense. I believe we need to be responsible for our federal finances and the needs of our people here at home.

The safety net needs to be maintained. Social Security needs to be saved. These are things we can’t ignore, but we’ve got to start dealing with our priorities today.

That’s why we have to find a way to come together, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, whatever, and make sure we protect our economic and national security priorities. We need to get in a room and iron this out. They’re not that complicated. We can find the solutions.

Former Admiral Mike Mullen said in 2011, ‘I believe that our debt is the greatest threat to our national security. If we as a country do not address our fiscal imbalances in the near-term, our national power will erode.’

That was five years ago. What have we done since then? Nothing but add debt.

Last year, Congress passed a budget resolution. We laid out a conservative vision for what spending levels should undertake and cut $7 trillion from the President’s budget. We passed a budget, but passed a budget because our budget process is broken, we didn’t pass authorizations.

We passed a budget, but because our budget process is broken, we did not pass most authorizations. We passed appropriations in committees, but we weren’t able to get them to the floor and vote on them, so we ended up with a Continuing Resolution at the end of the year and that led to a Grand Bargain, which I opposed, and an omnibus that added some $9 trillion to our national debt.

was used to fund the government, in the absence of any appropriations bills having been approved. That pushed us to a first quarter omnibus, that really most of us wanted to avoid. And then at the end of that, eight people got in a room and decided how we were going to spend $4 trillion.

That’s not what our Founders had in mind. That means, the top line spending levels were set by the so-called grand bargain, which I voted against, because it increased spending and would add $9.5 trillion over the next decade to the national debt.

This mounting debt crisis will not fix itself. Quite the contrary, it will only grow worse because Social Security, Medicare are going to demand more and more funds from the General Operating fund because of the imbalances in those two items.

If we don’t get serious about solving our debt crisis right now, we will not be able to fully support our national security or domestic priorities.

Recently, Richard Haass, a former top State Department official, said in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, ‘Our inability to deal with our debt challenge will detract from the appeal of the American political and economic model.’ He continued, ‘The result would be a world that is less democratic and increasingly less deferential to U.S. concerns in matters of security.’ We must create constraint and fiscal sanity in Washington. In the private sector, you fix a business by first drilling down and finding the underlying problem.

The way that Washington funds the federal government –the time it takes to complete the federal budget, the fact that the current process allows Members of Congress to put off making tough decisions—is the real problem. 

In business, this would never be allowed. In your personal homes, this cannot be tolerated. But somehow we’re able to do it here, year after year.

This process has only worked four times in the past 42 years.

It has been encouraging to hear Budget Chairman Mike Enzi and House Budget Chairman Tom Price from my home state of Georgia, make this a priority for this year and I believe they’re making great progress. They are having hearings to find out if there are models around the world that do it better than do, and we’re finding those examples. Especially at a time when we cannot allow the process to breakdown and result in more continuing resolutions, omnibus bills, or short-term funding fights that don’t solve anything.

We must reduce redundant programs, focus on growing our economy by unlocking finally our nation’s full economic and energy potential.

Finally, we must save Social Security and Medicare, and tackle the biggest drivers of our overall health care costs.

To do this, Washington needs to stop pretending that these crises will go away on their own, and the national debt will somehow solve itself. It won’t. In fact, it has already done irreversible damage to our credibility and capability on the world stage.

Our mounting debt crisis is already raising questions from our allies around the world about how we will be able to stand by our international commitments.

I just got back from a trip to Europe and the Middle East. The number one question I had asked of us by leaders, heads of state in those countries was, America needs to lead again.

To lead again, we’ve got to get our financial house in order.

Our debt crisis, and a failed foreign policy, has served to confuse our allies and embolden our enemies.

It threatens our ability to defend our country, period. 

Also, the interest payments on our debt is affecting our education, infrastructure, and more here at home in programs that are necessary. Imagine if we didn’t have that unproductive responsibility of unnecessary interest. Every member of this body knows that we need to act now.

Every member of this body knows that we need to act now. My question is, well, why aren’t we acting? The challenge is to stop talking about it theoretically and start putting the solutions into practice.  

That’s why Georgians sent me to the U.S. Senate, and that’s what I will continue fighting on this every day.

Let’s not lose sight of Congress’ number one responsibility. We are charged in the Constitution – under Article I – to responsibly fund the federal government, and to ensure that the six reasons why 13 colonies came together in the first place, can actually be realized.”