08/07/2011 03:56 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2011

Priorities and Character

It is impossible to form national priorities in a climate where one out of five Americans hates the government that manages our public interests. If your attitude is that we're all on our own and that collective action concerning our shared interests is to be resisted, then governing becomes virtually impossible.

Our representatives have cobbled together a budget resolution that almost certainly will not work, either to reduce deficits or to stimulate economic growth. What reason do we have to believe that those appointed to the so-called "super committee" will not simply reflect the factions in the Congress? Every ideology and interest group will demand representation on the super committee and it will become a microcosm of the wider Congressional deadlock.

The formula Congress adopted requires reduction in defense spending. And that spending must be on the table. But if the super committee recommends across-the-board percentage reductions, it will be a mistake. Defense contractors with enormous political influence will resist procurement reductions or weapons systems cancellations on both jobs and security grounds. The cuts will then come out of the personnel and operational accounts, and the people who defend our country will bear most of the burden.

If the Obama administration, and especially the new Secretary of Defense, use this turning point to reshape and reconfigure our forces and the equipment they use for the conflicts of the 21st, rather than the 20th, century, we can reduce the defense budget while making our security stronger. The biggest challenge facing our defense establishment now is not how to spend more money. It is how to anticipate future threats and reduce them in size. Security in this century will be much more about intelligence and less about absolute military power.

And finally, a small number of Americans benefit the most from a secure nation. They have the greatest stake in property and wealth. It is only fair that they pay a greater share than they presently do to defend their own interests as well as those of the nation.