More Calls for Pentagon Cuts

November 19, 2010

The new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center's Domenici-Rivlin commission adds another voice to the growing chorus of calls for cuts in Pentagon spending as part of any deficit reduction plan. Among the most important elements of the report with respect to defense are its call for a rethinking of the roles and missions of the U.S. armed forces, including a de-emphasis on wars of occupation like Iraq and large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns like Afghanistan; its call for significant reductions in the number of troops in the U.S. military; and its recommendation for cuts in the U.S. intelligence community's massive $80 billion annual budget.

Total savings from the plan between 2012 and 2020 would be $1.1 trillion. Gordon Adams and his colleagues at the Stimson Center -- which crafted the defense portion of the Domenici-Rivlin report -- have done an excellent four-page summary of their recommendations, available on their "The Will and the Wallet" web site.

For those who argue that these kinds of cuts can't be implemented in the context of a more conservative Congress and a strong arms lobby, Adams and his colleagues point out that from 1985 through 1998 -- a period in which deficit reduction was taken seriously -- the Pentagon budget was reduced by more than one-third in real terms; weapons procurement spending was cut by one half; 700,000 troops were eliminated from the armed forces; and 300,000 civilian posts were cut at the Pentagon. That is a substantially deeper set of cuts than those set out in any of the current plans for defense cuts, including the Sustainable Defense Task Force; the Bowles-Simpson report; or a recent report by the Cato Institute. So, it can be done, and there will be cuts -- the only question is how deep, and what elements of Pentagon spending will be cut. A good rough guide to what needs to be done is contained in a new letter from 46 experts, released by the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy.and addressed to the President's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (the Bowles-Simpson panel).

I will have more to say on this topic, particularly on the likely dynamics of the Pentagon budget debate in the new Congress that comes into office in January.

Originally posted at TPMCafe on November 19, 2010.

Posted by coalition at November 19, 2010 03:13 PM

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