Times are tough, and Congress is worried about deficits. There is talk of cutting such popular programs as Medicare and Social Security. But little is being said about one of the biggest spenders--the Pentagon.
The President's bipartisan commission on the deficit recommended cuts in Pentagon spending. The Sustainable Defense Task Force, convened by a bipartisan group in Congress, identified nearly $1 trillion in potential cuts over the next ten years. Expert groups and commissions across the political spectrum issued a raft of recommendations; all agreed that Congress could and should cut $70 to $100 billion per year from Pentagon spending over the next 10 years.
Yet other than small cuts here and there recommended by the Secretary of Defense, Congress has been unwilling to grapple with the waste, redundancy, and undefined objectives that characterize the Pentagon budget. If we are serious about reducing the deficit, we have to put the Pentagon budget on the table.
The size of the Pentagon budget has grown to mammoth proportions. Military spending has doubled in the last 10 years, and it accounts for half of the discretionary spending that Congress allocates in appropriations bills every year. The United States spends almost as much as all the rest of the world's nations combined on our military.
Pentagon spending is a confused mess and not at all accountable to Congress. The Pentagon has never completed an audit. The General Accountability Office has found that Pentagon contracts have incurred $300 billion in cost overruns in the last five years. In fact, Pentagon contracts are not transparent even to the Pentagon. Retired Army Lt. General John Vines was given an assignment to find out how many contracts the Pentagon has and what the thousands of contracts are accomplishing for Pentagon missions. Vines commented, "We don't even know if all this activity is making us safer."
Many members of Congress, encouraged by lobbyists for weapons manufacturers, support continued production of obsolete or unneeded weapons systems, even against Pentagon requests and advice. These legislators have been led to believe that military contracts are essential for job creation in their states and districts. In fact, military contracts are not an effective job-creation engine. According to a University of Massachusetts-Amherst study, military dollars spent in a state yield the least number of jobs, compared to investments in health, education, and transportation.
These facts have not yet translated into policy change. Its time to stop treating the Pentagon budget like a sacred cow that cannot be touched. Our members of Congress need to keep hearing from us that the Pentagon budget should be the first thing they look at if they are looking for places to bring federal spending more in line with federal revenues. Here are 8 good reasons to cut the Pentagon budget:
1. Military spending accounts for half of the discretionary budget -- too big to ignore
2. Military spending has doubled in the last ten years -- too much to ignore
3. The Pentagon budget has a history of cost overruns -- $300 billion above what Congress authorized for various weapons systems in the last 5 years
4. The Pentagon budget has not been accountable to Congress -- no audits
5. Pentagon contracting is out of control -- standards, quality control and review for redundancies could yield significant efficiencies and savings.
6. The U.S. military budget accounts for 46.5 percent of total military spending by all the countries of the world. Are we bankrupting ourselves with excessive military spending?
7. U.S. presence in the world includes hundreds of military bases in Europe -- particularly in Germany. Are all these bases really necessary to our security?
8. The military budget is funding weapons systems that the Pentagon does not want or need for its missions.
Before we start cutting Social Security, Medicare, and aid to students, we need to cut the fat out of the Pentagon budget. Over-spending on the military has brought down numerous civilizations over the centuries. Let's not make the same mistake.
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