Since President Reagan's defense buildup in the early 1980s reversed the "hollow force" legacy of President Carter, the Republican Party has generally owned the brand "strong on defense." The recently reached debt-ceiling deal suggests, however, that a tea party-inspired Republican caucus is far more anti-tax than pro-defense. If a bipartisan congressional panel created by that deal cannot reach a compromise agreement on additional deficit-reduction measures by November, an automatic "trigger" could slash defense spending by as much as $1 trillion over the next decade. New Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said such deep cuts would severely damage U.S. national security.
So is the GOP in danger of having its "strong on defense" brand downgraded? If so, how will that change in the political dynamic likely impact a military that is trying to wind down and recoup from a decade of war? Is the deficit issue a serious enough crisis that cutting defense to reduce the shortfall would be, substantively, a good trade?