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House majority leader: “Debt is a national security threat”

Rising U.S. debt is a huge national security problem that must be tackled now, the leader of the House said Monday. "It’s time to stop talking about fiscal discipline and national security threats as if they’re separate topics: debt is a national security threat, one of the greatest we know of," House Majority Leader Steny ...

Rising U.S. debt is a huge national security problem that must be tackled now, the leader of the House said Monday.

"It's time to stop talking about fiscal discipline and national security threats as if they're separate topics: debt is a national security threat, one of the greatest we know of," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Unsustainable debt has a long history of toppling world powers." 

Rising U.S. debt is a huge national security problem that must be tackled now, the leader of the House said Monday.

"It’s time to stop talking about fiscal discipline and national security threats as if they’re separate topics: debt is a national security threat, one of the greatest we know of," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Unsustainable debt has a long history of toppling world powers." 

Hoyer didn’t call outright for cutting defense spending, but he did say that the United States needs to shift away from a focus on military power, increased focus on development, and examine on the root causes of anti-Americanism, while still prosecuting the war against violent extremists.

"America’s military is a powerful weapon, but it is not the only one we have," he said. "We cannot afford to turn our backs on any weapon in our arsenal."

In one sense, Hoyer is echoing the Obama administration’s policy as set forth in the recent National Security Strategy, which went farther than ever before in arguing that a strong economic base is the foundation of U.S. national power.

"First and foremost, we must renew the foundation of America’s strength. In the long run, the welfare of the American people will determine America’s strength in the world, particularly at a time when our own economy is inextricably linked to the global economy," the document reads. "Our prosperity serves as a wellspring for our power."

At last weekend’s G-20 summit, the world’s top economies pledged to half deficits by 2013. The Obama administration reportedly resisted such austerity measures inside the negotiations, and the prospects of the United States reaching that goal are slim. The White House would prefer to delay tackling the budget until the global economic recovery is on more solid footing.

Hoyer is calling for president’s debt commission to tackle the problem now and for a budget agreed to be signed immediately, even if actual measures won’t be implemented until the economy is stronger.

"An agreement like that, to be implemented after the economy has fully recovered, is a necessity today," he said.

The White House and the Democrats in Congress, the House especially, haven’t seen eye to eye on several economic policy issues lately. Only last week, Hoyer announced the Congress won’t even pass a budget resolution this year, instead passing a "budget enforcement plan" that would allow the administration to spend $7 billion less than what it requested last year but would also allow Congress to avoid preparing a long-term budget plan before the November elections.

"It isn’t possible to debate and pass a realistic, long-term budget until we’ve considered the bipartisan commission’s deficit-reduction plan, which is expected in December," Hoyer said.

Congress has yet to pass fiscal 2010 war funding, despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s warning that the military would have to start doing "stupid things" to make ends meet if the money isn’t delivered soon.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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