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How to Cut Military Spending

July 13, 2010

By Lawrence Korb

Kevin Williamson calls the report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, of which I am a member, a "strange" and "shoddy" document. Allow me to disagree.

Williamson begins by dismissing a quotation from John Podesta (my boss at the Center for American Progress) - "an overall defense strategy that is fiscally unsustainable will fail every bit as much as a strategy that shortchanges the military" - as "of no interest." Really? Podesta sounded like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who noted earlier this year that Pres. Dwight Eisenhower believed this country "could only be as militarily strong as it was economically dynamic and fiscally sound."

He then goes on to dismiss our conclusions because of the composition of the task force, which he says includes "no leading minds from the armed forces or the Pentagon." Leaving aside the issue of how we could get people actually working for the government to serve on an independent task force, Williamson ignores the fact that two of the members are combat veterans and one (me) has more than 20 years of military and civilian government service in the defense area, including nearly five years administering 70 percent of the defense budget.

Williamson derides our suggestion that $10 billion a year (or $100 billion over a decade) could be saved in "command, support and infrastructure" as "magic." Actually, as we note, the last two secretaries of defense, the Defense Science Board, and the DOD inspector general argue that much more could be saved each year in this area.

He also criticizes us for not discussing entitlement programs and insinuates that we are making the DOD budget bear too much of the burden of deficit reduction. Leaving aside the fact that our task was to focus only on defense spending, we recommended reductions of about $100 billion a year in the base defense budget. This amounts to less than 10 percent of the current and projected annual deficit of more than $1 trillion. Since defense today represents 20 percent of the overall budget (including entitlements), asking the baseline defense budget to bear 10 percent of the deficit reduction is not unfair or unreasonable. Obviously, our members agree that if we are to get out of the current fiscal mess, all spending and taxes must be on the table.

Read the rest here.

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