57 Members of Congress Support Defense Cuts

Yesterday, 57 members of Congress sent a letter to the President’s Fiscal Commission advising the commission to put the defense budget under the “rigorous scrutiny” that the rest of the budget will receive. Here are some important parts of the letter:

...cutting the military budget must be a part of any viable proposal. The Department of Defense currently takes up almost 56% of all discretionary federal spending, and accounts for nearly 65% of the increase in annual discretionary spending levels since 2001. Much of this increase, of course, is attributable to direct war costs, but nearly 37% of discretionary spending growth falls under the "base" or "peacetime" military budget. Applying the adage that it is necessary to "go where the money is" requires that rigorous scrutiny be applied to military spending. We believe that such an analysis will show that substantial spending cuts can be made without threatening our national security, without cutting essential funds for fighting terrorism, and without shirking our obligations as a nation to our brave troops currently in the field, our veterans, and our military retirees.

Much of these potential savings can be realized if we are willing to make an honest examination of the cost, benefit, and rationale of the extensive U.S. military commitment overseas... We also think that significant savings can be found if we subject to similar scrutiny strategic choices that have led to the retention and continued development of Cold War era weapons systems and initiatives such as missile defense... Additionally, we believe that significant savings can be realized through reforming the process by which the Pentagon engages in weapons research, development and procurement, manages its resources, and provides support services. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has speculated that waste and mismanagement accounted for at least 5% of the Pentagon budget annually, and despite a long history of calls for reform from outside the Pentagon, and actual reform initiatives within it, it is clear that much more remains to be done.

As your commission scrutinizes the federal budget and discretionary spending, we ask that you look closely at the Department of Defense in regard to the issues we have raised, and others. We hope that the report you release this coming December will subject military spending to the same rigorous scrutiny that non-military spending will receive, and that in so doing a consensus will be reached that significant cuts are necessary and can be made in a way that will not endanger national security. We strongly believe this to be the case, and we strongly believe that any deficit reduction package must contain significant cuts to the military budget.

Budgetary constraints should not be the primary reason to reign in security spending. But as DoD Secretaries from the past two Administrations have pointed out, there are significant savings to be found. We concur that done thoughtfully and prudently, changes to the security budget can lead to significant savings in the nation’s budget.

A copy of the letter can be found here.