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There’s a war on. Fund it right.

Marketplace Staff Dec 20, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Ask around and you’ll hear the Army and Marines need all those new troops because of strategic miscalculations at the Pentagon and the White House. Commentator Newt Gingrich says they’re making budgetary miscalculations, too.

NEWT GINGRICH: America is in a real war against a growing alliance of radical Islamists and against brutal dictators trying to extend their influence.

But six years into this war, we still fund it as if we were in peacetime, both in the amount we spend and how we spend it.

In 1949 when we were containing the Soviet Union, we spent 7.1 percent of our GDP on national security.

The Marshall Plan was half of all federal spending and 3 percent of our GDP.

But today, during a war, we spend about 4 percent of our GDP. That’s a half-century record low.

And we continue to fund the vast majority of our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through emergency supplementals.

That is fundamentally misguided. If America wants victory in the larger war, we have to think through how to pay for it.

We need a new, wartime budget for national security. That means more resources for our military but also dramatically more for our intelligence community and state department. Bullets alone won’t win this war.

Spending on national security should always have a minimum, fixed percentage of our GDP. At least 5 percent during peacetime, and only capped by what it will take to win during wartime.

The presumption should be that we’re in this war for the long haul. Supplementals should only be used to fund operations we don’t anticipate.

The President should instruct national security leaders at the Pentagon, the State Department, and our intelligence agencies to figure out what they need to succeed over, say, a five-year period.

They should submit their needs directly to him, bypassing the Office of Management and Budget that’s known for nickel and diming.

Only then, will we have a budget plan that lays out a realistic level of investment we need to win the larger war.

RYSSDAL: Newt Gingrich spent 20 years in Congress, four of them as the Speaker of the House.

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