In his last budget before an expected move to chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has made one very striking adjustment. In a press call and in Budget Committee documents to be released tomorrow, Ryan makes the case that the world is more dangerous and the president has continued to cut defense spending beyond minimally acceptable levels. The House budget therefore spends $483 billion more than in the CBO baseline and $274 billion more than the president’s budget would require. Ryan says this will remove the need for the severe cuts to end strength and force structure, issues about which the president’s own defense secretaries have warned. Ryan remarked that he would “have some respect” for the defense cuts if they went toward deficit reduction, but in fact they’ve been used for increases in domestic spending.
The House budget points out that the president’s budget would lead to the smallest Army since WWII, severe reductions in end strength of the Army and Marine Corps, insufficient funds for the Navy’s 11 carrier groups and sending half the cruiser fleet to dry dock.
While no one would accuse Ryan of being an extravagant spender (he cuts another $5 trillion over the 10-year window), it is clear that the GOP is reprioritizing national security. As a party it is making a statement that the president’s defense budget and national security policies have left us weaker and more vulnerable. That is a major turn from only a few years ago and suggests that the party is returning to its tough-on-defense roots.