The arms lobby is gearing up for its latest attempt to get special treatment for Pentagon spending. Given the vast amounts of unnecessary spending that still exist within the Pentagon budget, this should be a non-starter. But just last week the Aerospace Industries Association organized a conference call of 100 industry CEOs to plot strategy for rolling back Pentagon spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act, most likely at the expense of Medicare and Social Security.
A new talking point for advocates of boosting Pentagon spending above levels required by current law is the misleading claim that absent a budget deal, the department will unfairly take the full brunt of roughly $20 billion in automatic cuts that would take effect on January 15. This is a misleading characterization of recent budget realities. In fact, the current resolution that is now funding the government gave the Pentagon an extra $20 billion beyond what current law requires – thereby violating the spending caps required under the Budget Control Act, which remains the law of the land. Meanwhile, domestic discretionary spending came in well below the caps called for under the law.
Thankfully, Reid’s position is reinforced by the fact that there is plenty of room to keep the Pentagon at the levels required under the Budget Control Act while reshaping the U.S. military to address 21st century threats. For example, a recent report from the Stimson Center suggested 27 actions that taken together would save $49.5 billion in the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget, $1.8 billion more than would be required under the sequester. The largest category of savings comes from management reforms – eliminating waste and duplication – followed closely by reductions in force structure, and then by elimination or scaling back of unnecessary weapons programs.
Broadly speaking, all of the Stimson recommendations can be thought of as ways to eliminate waste. Duplication is a form of waste. Keeping more troops than are needed to address the most likely challenges we face is a form of waste. Buying unnecessary systems like excess Trident submarines and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles is certainly a form of waste.
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