New Thinking on Cutting the Deficit

The Hill reported Friday on a congressional panel, commissioned by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), which proposed a new mindset toward defense:

The Sustainable Defense Task Force, a commission of scholars from a broad ideological spectrum…laid out actions the government could take that could save as much as $960 billion between 2011 and 2020.

Measures presented by the task force include making significant reductions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which has strong support from Defense Secretary Robert Gates; delaying the procurement of a new midair refueling tanker the Air Force has identified as one of its top acquisition priorities; and reducing the Navy’s fleet to 230 ships instead of the 313 eyed by the service.

The taskforce also “recommended cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, a reduction of 200,000 military personnel, smaller U.S. military presence in Asia and Europe and fewer tactical Air Force fighter wings. Other savings would come from shrinking the Navy to 230 ships from 287 currently, spending less on research, cuts or delays in big weapons programs, and higher health care premiums for the military,” according to Reuters.

Even Frank admitted that getting Congress on board with many of these recommendations would be an uphill battle. The acceptance of the recommendations would depend on a “philosophical change” and a “redefinition of the strategy,” Frank said at press conference on Capitol Hill.

But it’s time for such a change. The vast amounts of money spent on faulty or deteriorating weapons systems and unused nuclear weapons are sorely needed for jobs, infrastructure, and green technology research. And a good place to start consolidating existing defense funds would be through a unified security budget. Writes IPS research fellow Miriam Pemberton (who was also on the taskforce):

The budgets they draw up for the Pentagon keep on growing, and the cuts in military programs they support are almost exclusively designed to be plowed back in to other military programs.

As our nation continues to struggle with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, it’s even more important that every penny of our tax dollars is spent wisely. It’s encouraging to hear Obama administration officials taking a fresh look at more balanced and efficient national security budgeting.

You can read the Sustainable Defense Task Force’s full report here.