In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats discussed threats to the United States. Some were familiar territory: China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Yet none of those all-too-familiar threats are at the top of Coats’ list. So what is the biggest threat?
There’s a bigger threat to our national security: our ballooning national debt.
“I’m concerned that our increasing fractious political process, particularly with respect to federal spending, is threatening our ability to properly defend our nation both in the short term and especially in the long term,” Coats said. “The failure to address our longterm fiscal situation has increased the national debt to over $20 trillion and growing.”
The increase in spending means the country borrows more freely. On Tuesday, as Coats was speaking, the national debt was at $20.63 trillion.
“I would urge all of us to recognize the need to address this challenge and to take action as soon as possible before a fiscal crisis occurs that truly undermines our ability to ensure our national security,” Coats said. Coats knows about government spending; he served as a Republican senator for Indiana for 16 years.
Coats isn’t the first to raise this alarm. Far from it. In 2012, Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was interviewed by Fortune magazine. Mullen noted then that the national debt was “the single biggest threat to our national security.”
“In Tuesday’s hearing,” Business Insider writes, “Coats said former secretaries of state Madeline Albright and Henry Kissinger, former secretaries of defense Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, and current defense secretary James Mattis agree with Mullen’s assessment.”
How influential will Coats’ warning be? That remains to be seen. The timing was conspicuous, though, as President Donald Trump released his $4.4 trillion budget plan. Estimates suggest the budget would a $7 trillion deficit in just a decade.
“That budget doesn’t mean much,” BI writes, “since Congress just agreed to the outline of a two-year spending plan last week.”
The congressional plan requires an additional $500 billion for new spending. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates this will add $320 billion to the deficit. If the plans stays in place, that could increase to $1.7 trillion.
Other Republicans are critical of the increase in spending, too. Republican Sen. Rand Paul may be the most critical.
“Our debt is $20 trillion and growing, and out party seems to only want to be fiscally conservative when they’re in the minority,” Paul wrote in a Time. “We now control the House, Senate and White House, and we should stand for less government and less spending. Instead, we see a massive increase that would make President Obama cringe.”