WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2008 – Americans need to have a serious debate about what it takes to defend the United States, said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen during a Pentagon news conference today. Mullen has long proposed a floor for funding for national security of 4 percent of gross domestic product. With the supplemental budgets this year the United States spent about 4.3 percent of GDP.

“I actually originated that discussion or tried to start that discussion and focus on it, because I think it’s very important for the American people and its representatives to look very seriously at the investment that we make as a country in defense,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Looking at the trends historically, Mullen said that 4 percent is about right now, given that the United States is involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and faces challenges around the world.

Any debate or discussion would have to take under consideration the breadth of U.S. commitments around the world and the “appetite” for security, Mullen said. The budget must mirror these military and security commitments and would have to include the resources to underpin the security strategy of the United States, he said.

Other aspects fit into the equation – the state of the economy, the priorities of the next administration, what happens globally.

“I think it really is important that we have the debate,” Mullen said. “It’s less the number, to me, than it is to … engender the discussion and the debate about this, with respect to what we need.”

Mullen said that, while 4 percent of GDP spend on defense seems right to him, he’s not absolutely committed to that number.

“I’m not hung up on 4 percent,” he said. “But I think having our national security investment correct, in the times in which we’re living, is absolutely critical.”

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