Pentagon Cuts: The Next Chapter
By Jim Cason on 11/22/2011 @ 06:00 PM
The congressional supercommittee's failure to reach agreement on a plan to cut the federal budget deficit by at least $1.2 trillion is a missed opportunity to set the nation on a new path. We at FCNL have been arguing that that Congress could save $1 trillion of that amount just with a 15% cut in Pentagon spending.
Yet no agreement is better than a bad agreement. The FCNL community may see more progress in our efforts to cut Pentagon spending and reorient federal budget priorities with the failure of this committee than we would have if the committee had agreed to a deal that exempted the Pentagon from real cuts.
No, I don't think congressional failure to reach agreement and gridlock is a good result. But change doesn't happen in Congress with one vote or one supercommittee. From the Occupy Wall Street movement to the local protests about cuts in your community, Congress is getting a message that business as usual isn't okay.
Your messages to Congress, your letters to the editor, your lobbying and the advocacy of tens of thousands of other people have also played a part in persuading Congress that they cannot keep writing the Pentagon blank checks, and they cannot cut the deficit just on the backs of the poor.
The Next Chapter
The next chapter in this book we are writing together will have to build on what we have already accomplished. We have a lot to build on. By the rules set up in the August deal to raise the debt ceiling, the failure of the supercommittee will result in additional cuts in both Pentagon and "non-defense" discretionary spending.
The Pentagon has at least on paper already acknowledged they could cut $450 billion from planned growth in their spending. Cutting growth in spending isn't enough. Yet Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Pentagon contractors are already trying to define these cuts as sufficient and argue that any additional cuts would be a mistake. The House Armed Services Committee has tried to add to the alarm by arguing that these cuts would devastate our country's national defense.
In my view, we should welcome a debate about how much our country needs to spend on the military. Working with Libertarian groups and taxpayer advocates, we've been arguing that the Pentagon could be cut by at least 15% a year for ten years or about $1 trillion. The Sustainable Defense Task Force is a good list from which to begin these cuts.
A part of this discussion could also be about nuclear weapons. Why not eliminate ICBM Missiles and the next generation of ballistic missile submarines? Other options include reducing the number of U.S. troops in Europe and cutting the size of the Navy? Here at FCNL we're eager to work with you to start these discussions and move them forward.
FCNL Ruth's Flower will soon be providing all of us with a full analysis of what happens next. In the meantime, we at FCNL hope some of you might use the press coverage of the supercommittee's failure to let Congress know that they now need to turn to the work of cutting Pentagon spending and reorienting our foreign policy in a more sustainable, and ultimately safer, direction.