BAGHDAD — Just because there’s a deal to raise the federal debt limit doesn’t mean the United States is any safer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said Tuesday.
“I haven’t changed my view that the continually increasing debt is the biggest threat we have to our national security,” Mullen said during a meeting with reporters in Baghdad.
Mullen famously warned almost a year ago during a speech to Detroit’s Economic Club that the nation’s ballooning debt posed the biggest threat to national security, citing the gap between the nation’s revenues and outlays instead of terrorism or rogue nations.
It is “so important that the economy move in the right direction” in order to pay for more military spending, Mullen said at the time.
“The resources that our military uses are directly related to the health of our economy,” Mullen said, noting that the $600 billion in interest on the debt in 2012 equaled “one year’s worth of defense budget.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, nominated to succeed Mullen, dissented, slightly, recently. In written answers to questions from the Senate Armed Service Committee, Dempsey said: “I wouldn’t describe our economic condition as the single biggest threat to national security. There are a lot of clear and present threats to our security in the current operational environment. That said, there is unquestionably a relationship between U.S. security and the debt.”
Mullen’s warnings from a year ago have, nonetheless, have been cited by many lawmakers as part of the ongoing budget and debt debates.
On Tuesday, Mullen wouldn’t expand on specific details of the debt deal because he said he hadn’t reviewed them. But he said the Defense Department remains committed to cutting $400 billion from its budget in the next 10 to 12 years.
“There are various combinations of options on how to proceed ahead,” he said. “But a lot of that depends on what the top line is and we don’t know that yet, and also, our judgment on degree of difficulty of making certain adjustments.”
“Some of this we’re going to have to move pretty quickly, because the fiscal 2012 budget, which starts in under 90 days, is a budget we put together last year, and we’re going to have to figure out how to execute that budget in the very near future, I hope,” he said.
Mullen spoke Tuesday from Baghdad, during what is expected to be his last visit to Iraq before retiring in October. He also visited Afghanistan over the weekend.