The Washington Post

How debt imperils national security
The Washington Post

Several months ago, a group of logistics officers at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces developed a national security strategy as a class exercise. Their No. 1 recommendation for maintaining U.S. global leadership was “restore fiscal responsibility.”

That’s a small illustration of what’s becoming a consensus among national security experts inside and outside the Obama administration: To play an effective role in the world, the United States must rebuild its economic strength at home. After a decade of war and financial crisis, America has run up debts that pose a national security problem, not just an economic one.

One of the strongest voices arguing for fiscal responsibility as a national security issue has been Defense Secretary Bob Gates. He gave a landmark speech in Kansas on May 8, invoking President Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the dangers of an imbalanced military-industrial state.

« Eisenhower was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state — militarily strong, but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent, » Gates said. He warned that America was in a « parlous fiscal condition » and that the « gusher » of military spending that followed Sept. 11, 2001, must be capped.

What’s interesting about this focus on domestic economic security is that it probably would be endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, Tea Party conservatives and antiwar liberals. In a country that doesn’t agree on much, it could be a unifying theme.