Contractors Mobilize On Pentagon Budget Cuts
By Jim Cason on 04/22/2012 @ 12:00 PM
One of my colleagues came back from a recent Capitol Hill hearing on funding for nuclear weapons with an astonishing observation. As he looked around the room, he saw some 20 lobbyists representing companies that would benefit from building new nuclear weapons. The sad part, he said, that he and one other person were the only people in the room pressing for funding to be cut.
The peace movement is often outnumbered on Capitol Hill, but my colleague said that in the past the differences haven't been so stark. Here at FCNL, where we field the largest team of registered lobbyists working for peace on Capitol Hill, we're well aware of the resource imbalance. The good news is that we see a real need and possibility that Pentagon spending will be cut significantly in the next year in order to preserve funding for other priorities.
The challenge is that Pentagon contractors who benefit from military spending also see this possibility. Faced with a new law that requires military spending to be cut by $1 trillion during the next decade, Pentagon contractors and their allies are mobilizing to prevent the cuts. Although Pentagon spending has nearly doubled in the last decade, their argument is that the continued growth in Pentagon spending is essential to the nation. To get this message across, The Hill newspaper reported recently that Lockheed Martin has increased its lobbying budget from $3.2 million to $4 million this year.
The Aerospace Industries Association, the Heritage Foundation Action Coalition and other groups have also launched campaigns to persuade Congress to prevent the cuts in Pentagon spending. Borrowing a tactic from our friends at the National Priorities Project (NPP), the new Coalition for a Common Defense has established a "No More Cuts to Defense" coalition that includes each state's projected revenue reductions after Pentagon spending is cut. I encourage you to look at both websites.
Is Cutting $480 Billion Enough?
Reading the writing on the wall, the Obama administration, the Pentagon and at least some of their contractors have conceded that the projected growth in Pentagon spending over the next ten years will have to be slowed. The Obama administration and the Pentagon have told Congress they will reduce Pentagon spending over the next ten years by as much as $480 billion. That's a victory in itself.
But what has the administration and the contractors particularly worried is that under the Budget Control Act passed last year, the White House is required by law to take steps to cut an additional $500 billion in Pentagon spending over the next ten years. My colleague Ruth Flower did a detailed analysis of this process, known as sequestration, several months. The prospect of these additional sequestration cuts is ringing alarm bells in the offices of major military contractors, the Pentagon, and even the White House.
What I find astonishing is that the Pentagon, the White House and much of Congress are so focused on the "dangerous" consequences of cutting the Pentagon, while much less attention is paid to what will happen if funding for programs that literally put food on the table of poor people is cut dramatically.
At a hearing of the House Budget Committee last week, the first half of the hearing was focused primarily on Pentagon spending. It was only later in the hearing that a White House official was asked about the impact of cuts in domestic spending: a hundred thousand low income children could lose access to early childhood education, 10,000 special education teachers will lose their jobs and 16,000 teacher's aides could lose work, acknowledged the White House official. Already, according to government statistics, since January 2009 state and local governments have laid off 611,000 employees -- including 196,000 in public education.
We at FCNL believe Pentagon spending can be cut because we know War is not the answer. We also need to help others in our communities understand that if Pentagon spending is not cut by at least $1 trillion over the next ten years, then funding for other critical human needs in will be cut even more deeply.
The good news is that support is growing for a $1 trillion cut in Pentagon spending. The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission argued that a cut of this magnitude is possible and the Sustainable Defense Task Force that FCNL has promoted offers some practical examples of how these cuts could be made. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has been a particular champion of cutting Pentagon spending. "Remember, you can't have a defense if you don't have a vibrant fiscal policy," he told Congressional Quarterly last week.
Funding Blocked for New Bomb Plant
Congress is also getting that message in part thanks to your lobbying and your financial support for our lobbying. Although my colleague felt outnumbered at the hearing on funding for nuclear weapons, the rest of that story is that the House Appropriations Committee decided this week not to provide any funding for the new nuclear bomb plant they were discussing. Of course, I would argue that one FCNL lobbyist backed up by tens of thousands of people around the country is much more valuable than ten or twenty industry lobbyist seeking profits for individual companies.
If you don't believe me, look at this new document that lists some of what we've been working on in the last few months. In the last year, our Executive Secretary Diane Randall has expanded our lobbying team to respond to the extraordinary possibilities we see to advance FCNL's agenda in Congress. After you read this blog, I hope you'll take a moment to send a letter to Congress on one of these issues and consider a special donation to help support this expanded work.