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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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IPS Blog

Entries tagged "military budget"

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Cut Nine Military Programs, Save $77 Billion

July 21, 2011 ·

After weeks of negotiations military cuts seem to be on the table as reported in today's Washington Post. In case anyone in Congress is looking for a quick $77 billion in savings, we thought it would be good to list the proposed reductions to the 2012 fiscal year's military budget in the Unified Security Budget task force report that IPS released last month:


1. National Missile Defense: Cease further Missile Defense development but retain a basic technology program to determine if NMD is technically feasible, generating $3.6 billion in savings.

2. Virginia Class Submarine: Cancel production of the second SSN-744 Virginia Class submarine in FY2012 and in subsequent years, saving $2.41 billion in 2012 and $11.32 billion through 2016.

3. V-22 Osprey: Cancel the V-22 Osprey program for savings of $2.79 billion in FY2012.

4. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Cut the Navy and Marine Corps versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, and reduce procurement for Air Force version by half, saving $5.6 billion.

5. Personnel: Reduce the number of active-duty personnel stationed in Europe and Asia, allowing for savings of $6.5 billion in 2012.

6. Nuclear Forces: Reduce nuclear weapons arsenal to 292 deployed weapons and 19 in reserve and eliminate the Trident II nuclear missile, generating $21 billion in savings.

7. Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation: Reduce RDT&E across the board from $74.3 to $65.3 billion, saving $10 billion.

8. Force Structure: Cut two active component air wings, two carrier battle groups and their associated air wings from the Air Force for an annual savings of $8 billion.

9. Waste and Inefficiencies: Use waste and efficiency savings identified across the department to reduce the budget saving $20 billion.

The USB report showed that the Pentagon is spending billions in weapons that have no match around the world and which are unlikely to be used in combat in any strategic military engagement by the United States.

Will the military budget emerge from the ongoing spending reductions unscathed? Or, will someone take a stand and trim its fat?

The End of the Sacred Cow

June 30, 2011 ·

Over the last decade, military spending has nearly doubled — it now exceeds Cold War levels. Coupled with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these massive expenditures have contributed to the crippling of our economy.

Despite lip service from Washington officials, including outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, there's been little appetite for reining in this rampant spending. Yet, in the increasingly partisan budget debate, military spending is the one area where there may be some bipartisan agreement.

Questioned about Republicans' unwillingness to cut military spending, Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said in an interview this week, "Look, I know there are sacred cows, but we cannot afford them anymore."

But any cuts must be done in a smart way that ensures our safety and security here at home. Since 2004, the Institute for Policy Studies has promoted a bold vision about ending waste in the vast military budget, and providing a road map on how to shift security resources more effectively.

Guided by a task force of military, diplomacy, and homeland security experts and led by IPS expert Miriam Pemberton and Lawrence Korb at the Center for American Progress, the Institute released today a new report titled "Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2012."

For those on Capitol Hill looking for effective cuts, Korb notes, "There is plenty that can be trimmed from the $700 billion-plus spent annually on the military. In the report we detail $77 billion of lowest hanging fruit."

And Pemberton explains the security framework that makes cuts — and additions — to the budget possible. "We need a budget process that looks at our security challenges as a whole, and allocates resources in a way that matches the lip service everyone in government pays to the co-equal importance of military and non-military tools," she says.

Overhauling U.S. security spending should be just one way the nation moves toward more rational fiscal approach. Just last week, IPS rallied with nurses on Wall Street, calling on the financial industry to pay their fair share of the costs of the economic crisis. And the Institute's Chuck Collins is an integral part of a campaign to target tax cheats, including Apple.

This mixture of smart spending cuts and increases in revenue puts real military and economic security within our grasp.

P.S.: As Glenn Beck leaves the Fox News Network today, IPS is sending him a goodbye card along with a copy of our annual report that he paraded on his show last year. Add your name to the card by making a tax-deductible donation to IPS as we celebrate the end of an error!

A Deficit of Ideas

January 27, 2011 ·

Today, the White House will announce plans to eliminate the color coding warning system created after 9/11 under the Bush administration. If there is a problem, the Obama administration says, they will tell us. Unlike the doom-and-gloom Republicans, Obama is once again trying to reduce fear and inspire "hope," though he was careful not to use that specific campaign word during his State of the Union address.

But make no mistake about Obama’s speech — at the dawn of what promises to be two years of gridlock, Obama is settling back into where he is most comfortable — the campaign trail. It was no coincidence that the stories he featured throughout his address came from battleground states like Michigan, Colorado, and Oregon or that he visited Wisconsin the next day.

By portraying himself as a sensible centrist above the fray of bipartisan bickering, he futilely attempted to appease one side and then the other, often almost in the same breath. Allow gays in the military (to make Democrats happy) but also allow ROTC on college campuses (to make Republicans happy). Allow people not born in the United States to stay (Democrats) but secure the borders (Republicans).

Obama attempted to appeal to the center by pushing a pro-business agenda and emphasizing American exceptionalism. But pandering to business has a high price. The spending freeze on discretionary domestic programs would have a devastating effect on many American families. Obama emphasized job-creating exports but failed to mention that our trade policies have increased our imports even more. Our trade deals also push a deregulatory agenda that undermines workers and the environment everywhere. Instead of addressing climate change, Obama spoke of “clean energy,” code for the use of oxymoronic "clean coal" and nuclear power.

He missed out on the opportunity to advocate for a progressive vision of the United States and to take on a real leadership role. IPS scholars pointed out that he should have proposed gun control or criminal justice reform. In addressing the deficit, he gave only vague reference to cutting the military budget, a necessary action to take if we are serious about job creation and deficit reduction. Obama failed to propose new ways to generate revenue by clamping down on corporate tax dodgers. Read all of the great suggestions the IPS staff proposed for Obama on the IPS Blog.

Obama is right when he says we are living in a different time. The Republicans have the strength of the conservative movement on the outside pulling them and the nation further and further to the right. We, as progressives, need to apply that same pressure. Hope alone will not sustain us.

What We Didn't Hear from Obama on Iraq

September 2, 2010 ·

Above: Contrary to appearances, this really is Phyllis on Fox News, 8/31/10.

President Obama’s speech on the partial draw-down of U.S. troops in Iraq had one surprising moment. He admitted that the Iraq War as a “trillion dollar” war. That’s huge. I’m pretty sure he’s the first U.S. official to acknowledge that horrifying reality.

But what he left out was more significant. Just on the cost of war, while acknowledging the overall cost, and speaking separately about job loss and the economic crisis in the U.S., he didn’t make the crucial link between the two. He didn’t say, for instance, that the cost of keeping 50,000 troops in Iraq another year and a half, more than $12 billion, could instead pay for 240,000 new green union jobs back home – and still have funds left over to begin paying for real reconstruction and reparations in Iraq.

What else didn’t we hear? We didn’t hear that the 50,000 troops in Iraq now ARE still combat troops — even if the Pentagon has “re-missioned” them for training and assistance.  We heard about the 4th Stryker Brigade leaving Iraq, but not about the 3,000 new combat troops from Fort Hood in Texas, from the Third Armored Cavalry — combat troops — who just deployed TO Iraq 10 days ago.

Above: Same thing on Real News Network. Obama only seems ubiquitous. 9/1/2010.

We didn’t hear about the 4,500 Special Forces among them. That group has two jobs: continuing their “counter-terrorism” operations, which means running around the country with a “capture or kill” list, authorizing those U.S. soldiers to do just that to anyone named on the list. Who knows what corruption, settling of old scores, or other factors led to some of those names? Their second job is to train their Iraqi counterparts, the Iraqi Special Operations Force, which seems to be becoming an El Salvador-style death squad. It’s accountable only to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, not to the Iraqi government as a whole. The U.S. officer who set it up, Lt. Col. Roger Carstens, laughed while telling the Nation’s Shane Bauer that “all these guys want to do is go out and kill bad guys all day.”  The U.S. head of the training unit, Brig. General Simeon Trombitas, who said he was “very proud of what was done in El Salvador,” also announced that the U.S. training in places like El Salvador and Colombia (he served in both) was “extremely transferable” to Iraq.

We didn’t hear much about that.

And, at the end of the day, we didn’t hear much about the 50,000 troops remaining. We didn’t hear about how the State Department is bringing in 7,000 armed security contractors, planes, surveillance drones, armored vehicles, and a “ready reaction” force of its own, to protect the 5,000 diplomats anticipated in the giant (Vatican City-sized) new embassy after the December 31, 2011 deadline for all U.S. troops and all of the Pentagon’s military contractors to leave Iraq. Thus instead of replacing U.S. power with independent and sovereign Iraqi power, the real transition underway is from the Pentagon to the State Department. Instead of replacing military force with diplomacy, the U.S. is just militarizing U.S. diplomacy.

And one more thing we didn’t hear. We didn’t hear Obama remind us of what he once understood so clearly: that Iraq is a “stupid war.” Instead, we heard a near-reiteration of George Bush. The war never was about “Iraqi Freedom.” But it sure doesn’t sound like a “New Dawn” either.

You can also listen to me debate the subject with Ret. General James Dubik and Washington Post editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran on The Diane Rehm Show. And before the speech I was on Al-Jazeera English.

'Aspirational' vs. 'Operational' Military Budget Cutting

August 12, 2010 ·

Quiz:  Who said this? “Is it a dire threat that by 2020 the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China.”

And this: “As we learned last year, you don’t necessarily need a billion-dollar guided missile destroyer to chase down and deal with a bunch of teenage pirates wielding AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.”

And this: “Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?”

Would you believe, the current Secretary of Defense?

Such musings have led him to mount the most serious effort to restrain his own budget of any Defense Secretary since the post-Cold War period. He deserves credit for this.

But look at what he said when asked about his carrier talking point: “I may want to change things, but I’m not crazy. I’m not going to cut a carrier, okay?”

So what we seem to have is an “Aspirational Gates,” who wants to cut weapons systems we don’t need, and an “Operational Gates,” who knows he needs to keep such aspirations in bounds.

What the Operational Gates isn’t doing is cutting his budget. The $100 billion he wants to cut is a lot less than it sounds, because:

  • It’s spread over five years.
  • All but $7 billion of it will be “done” after he is likely no longer around to see that it actually is done.
  • Most importantly, his plan is to shift any savings to other programs within his own budget.

And, the longest unbroken surge in military spending in U.S. history will continue. Gates’ plan to slow its rate of growth is being redefined as budget cutting.

But since, as he has also mentioned, we are spending nearly as much on the military as the rest of the world put together. And since we are seriously in need of money, we need to do better than this.

Today the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget releases its blueprint for $75 billion in cuts that can be made safely--increasing Gates’ plans for military cuts next year by a factor of 10. 

The Aspirational Gates could really get behind this.

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