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RELEASE: $100 Billion in Politically Feasible Defense Cuts for a Budget Deal

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Contact: Christina DiPasquale
Phone: 202.481.8181
Email: cdipasquale@americanprogress.org

Washington, D.C. — As Congress works to come to an agreement to avoid sequestration, the Center for American Progress today released “$100 Billion in Politically Feasible Defense Cuts for a Budget Deal,” an issue brief outlining targeted reductions in defense spending to put the country on a more sustainable fiscal path, while eliminating unnecessary and ineffective programs without harming our national security or economic recovery.

This issue brief recommends $100 billion in responsible reductions over 10 years as an initial target, a modest “down-payment” that would bring the defense budget back to its 2010 level in real terms. While greater savings are both possible and, we would argue, necessary, this brief outlines a menu of the most politically palatable cuts, widely endorsed by organizations on both sides of the aisle.

As Congress continues its fiscal negotiations, it should consider the following reforms:

  • Eliminate the Navy’s buy of the over-budget F-35C jet and instead purchase the effec­tive and affordable F/A-18E/F jet to save $16.62 billion over 10 years
  • Reduce the size of our ground forces to their prewar levels to save $16.16 billion over 10 years
  • Reform the Pentagon’s outdated health care programs to save roughly $40 billion over 10 years
  • Reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons to 1,100 by 2022 to save at least $28 billion over 10 years

Responsible reductions in defense spending would force the Pentagon to better manage taxpayer money. Over the past decade, despite tremendous increases in defense spend­ing, the Pentagon’s equipment has aged and the size of its combat fleets has shrunk, as the department squandered $50 billion on weapons programs that were later cancelled and struggled with cost overruns on many of its major procurement programs. The Pentagon has been so poorly managed that it is unable to even conduct an audit—although it has set a goal of being audit-ready by 2014. The keystone of our country’s national security apparatus cannot keep track of how or on what its money is spent.

The cuts outlined in this analysis represent a politically feasible first step to be taken as part of a fiscal bargain to head off sequestration. That said, these cuts will not address the root causes of the growth in the defense budget. Fundamental reforms to the Pentagon’s procurement processes and personnel policies—including retirement reform—along with examinations of rising operations and maintenance costs and the pervasive use of contractors, will still be necessary. But such reforms will never happen while the Pentagon and Congress live in the looming shadow of sequestration and the expiration of the middle-class tax breaks. These steps will allow Congress to reach a workable deal and buy time to address more fundamental issues.

To speak with report co-author Lawrence J. Korb, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or cdipasquale@americanprogress.org.

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