Barney Frank, Ron Paul and 55 others advocate for defense cuts
Later today, Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Ron Paul and 55 congressional co-signers are sending a letter to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform advocating defense cuts. The letter is good not just on cuts, but on theory: It's as much about where we can save money as why we don't need to spend the money. Here's the core of it, with my emphases:
The Department of Defense currently takes up almost 56% of all discretionary federal spending, and accounts for nearly 65% of the increase in annual discretionary spending levels since 2001. Much of this increase, of course, is attributable to direct war costs, but nearly 37% of discretionary spending growth falls under the “base” or “peacetime” military budget. Applying the adage that it is necessary to “go where the money is” requires that rigorous scrutiny be applied to military spending. We believe that such an analysis will show that substantial spending cuts can be made without threatening our national security, without cutting essential funds for fighting terrorism, and without shirking our obligations as a nation to our brave troops currently in the field, our veterans, and our military retirees.
Much of these potential savings can be realized if we are willing to make an honest examination of the cost, benefit, and rationale of the extensive U.S. military commitment overseas, which in large part remains a legacy of policy decisions made in the immediate aftermath of World War II and during the Cold War. Years after the Soviet threat has disappeared, we continue to provide European and Asian nations with military protection through our nuclear umbrella and the troops stationed in our overseas military bases. Given the relative wealth of these countries, we should examine the extent of this burden that we continue to shoulder on our own dime.
We also think that significant savings can be found if we subject to similar scrutiny strategic choices that have led to the retention and continued development of Cold War-era weapons systems and initiatives such as missile defense. While the Soviet Union and its allies nearly matched the West’s level of military expenditure during the Cold War, no other nation today remotely approaches the 44% share of worldwide military spending assumed by the United States. China, for instance, spends barely one-fifth as much on military power as the United States. Instead of protecting us against a clear and determined foe and enemy, Defense Department planning and strategic objectives now focus on stemming the emergence of new threats by maintaining a vast range of global commitments on all continents and oceans. We believe that such commitments need to be scaled back.
Additionally, we believe that significant savings can be realized through reforming the process by which the Pentagon engages in weapons research, development and procurement, manages its resources, and provides support services. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has speculated that waste and mismanagement accounted for at least 5% of the Pentagon budget annually, and despite a long history of calls for reform from outside the Pentagon, and actual reform initiatives within it, it is clear that much more remains to be done.
That last bit is important: Because it's politically difficult to cut the defense budget, a lot of waste and redundancy builds up. Budget areas that are easier to cut -- think public health, or transportation -- are often leaner, as legislators looking to fund their priorities cut the obviously wasteful programs in those sectors long ago.
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