Hagel says the military-industrial complex must be "pared down."
Even some top Republicans, such as Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, agree.
They say the DoD budget must be "on the table." And, as part of the sequester scheme, it is, in fact, there.
But the military-industrial complex has teams of lobbyists -- including more than a few former members of Congress -- who are at the ready to defend the bloat. And even to expand it.
The president's nomination of Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense suggests that the White House may be ready to propose cuts. But they will need strong allies on Capitol Hill. And a Senator Barney Frank would be just that.
"We've had a very strong military," Frank argued in a television appearance this week. "There's room to cut further."
Noting that Pentagon spending has historically been reduced after the end of great conflicts, Frank says, "It was only until after 9/11 that George Bush and the neo-conservatives -- Cheney and the others -- were very successful in getting terrorism to be the substitute as the existential threat for Nazism and Communism. It clearly is not."
Frank has the confidence to make that case in Congress.
"I think it took a while for the American people to realize this, but they now understand: there is no threat of that sort. That doesn't mean we should be weak, but it means we could get by with a lot less," says the former congressman and potential senator. "I believe both the president and the Republicans understand public opinion is shifting here."
It is more likely to shift on Capitol Hill if Frank is there making the case in committees and on the floor, building unexpected coalitions with Republicans such as Tom Coburn and using the bully pulpit to tell the American people that "substantial reductions in military spending must be included in any future deficit reduction package." And that "the notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our military might worldwide is deeply flawed. And the idea that as a superpower it is our duty to maintain stability by intervening in civil disorders virtually anywhere in the world often generates anger directed at us and may in the end do more harm than good."
For more on early-term appointments and defense policy, read John Nichols' take on Chuck Hagel.
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