WASHINGTON -- With a federal debt of $14.3 trillion and climbing, lawmakers in Washington are scrambling to trim the fat and put the government on a fiscal diet.
"Just about everything's got to be on the table -- Everything from entitlement reform to the Department of Defense," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said.
But such cutbacks have some national security hawks worried.
Nineteen percent of the 2012 White House budget calls for spending on national defense, while 58 percent - the lion's share - goes toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlements.
Some political observers are concerned such expenditures could lead America down the same path as Europe.
"We paid national defense so they didn't even have to spend on that, so they could spend even more money on socialist programs like welfare and public housing and all that. And without spending on defense, they're growing broke," Seton Motley, president of Less Government, told CBN News.
Motley likened the current trend of entitlement spending to a plague.
"The socialist programs are like locusts," he told CBN News. "They travel around eating other portions of the budget, and Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are reaching that point where they're going to start cannibalizing other portions of the budget."
During his retirement tour, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates insisted the defense budget was not the cause the nation's fiscal woes.
"However, as matter of simple arithmetic and political reality, the Department of Defense must be at least part of the solution," he said.
But he also warned of a "dramatically diminished global security role for the United States" if America stalls the process of modernizing the military.
Among the items spelled out in the Constitution is providing for the common defense. Those who support a strong military argue the provision has served as a deterrent against foreign aggressors and as a way to promote and preserve peace at home.
"That's the first area - the number one priority for the federal government to protect its citizens," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Jordan's group wants to cut and cap spending in addition to passing a balanced budget amendment before it's too late.
"Interest right now is $200 billion," he noted. "In 10 years, interest will surpass what we spend on national defense. That's why we got to get at fixing this problem right away."