Mullen in Fortune: National Debt Still Top National Security Threat

At Concerned Veterans for America, we frequently point to the argument advanced by Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the U.S. national debt is the greatest threat to our nation’s security.

In a wide-ranging interview with Fortune Magazine published at CNN.com, Admiral Mullen goes into more detail about that threat, and about how a strong economy under girds national security:

At one time you said in a different context that the national debt was a threat to national security. What was your thinking?

Actually the way I said it was — and I still believe this — that it’s the single biggest threat to our national security. Obviously it’s complex, but the way I looked at it, if we didn’t get control of our debt, there would be continued loss of confidence in America.

I was in the military for over 40 years, and one of the principles I kept with me was that there’s an expectation globally that the U.S. will lead. Questions about that expectation have certainly risen in recent years. The fact that there’s even a question about that is worrisome to me, and I think needs to be for a lot of people.

You were the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs to talk explicitly about the importance of the economy in the defense of the country.

This goes back a long, long way for me. As a Naval officer, I’ve been all over the world, and one of the foundational lessons I learned was that parents everywhere would like to raise their children to a higher standard of living in a peaceful environment. That’s a universal goal for families. And a healthy, growing economic situation generates much more positive outcomes for people all over the world. In the past 10 or 15 years, the economic linkage we have is probably more than we really understand.

The interview also touches on additional threats to national security like nuclear weapons and cyberattacks, how to address the high rate of unemployment among veterans (an issue Mullen has written on previously), and other key issues. The whole piece is worth reading to get a better sense of the challenges our nation faces from a leading thinker on defense issues.