Center for American Progress

Trim the U.S. Defense Budget to Reduce Federal Spending

Trim the U.S. Defense Budget to Reduce Federal Spending

By ending strategically unnecessary programs and reducing funding for those programs that are not performing as needed to meet the needs of the armed forces, we can help rebuild a vibrant U.S. economy that is necessary to support a flexible and robust military.

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For fiscal year 2011, which began last month, the Obama administration is requesting $739 billion for the national defense budget category, which includes spending for the baseline defense budget, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and defense-related spending outside of the Department of Defense, largely funds directed to the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons priorities.

This request is larger, in inflation-adjusted terms, than any request since the end of World War II, including peak budget requests for the Cold War and the wars in Vietnam and Korea. Defense spending now constitutes around 19 percent of the federal budget and more than half of all U.S. discretionary spending. If this fiscal year’s request is approved by Congress, the Department of Defense estimates national defense spending will constitute 19.6 percent of the federal budget.

As we have repeatedly pointed out, this level of spending is unsustainable. What’s more, some of the defense systems now being funded are dramatically over budget or behind schedule, or are unsuitable to meet the current and projected national security needs of the United States. We simply cannot continue to direct scarce taxpayer dollars to inefficient or unnecessary programs. As we pointed out in our September 2010 report, “Strong and Sustainable,” the Defense Department could save more than $109 billion in fiscal year 2015 through canceling or scaling back a number of programs, including:

  • The V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft procured primarily for the U.S. Marine Corps
  • The DDG-51 destroyer, a multimission vessel that can conduct antiair and antisubmarine operations
  • The Marine Corps’ expeditionary fighting vehicle, an amphibious assault vehicle intended to carry troops from ship to shore, and up to 345 miles on land
  • The post-September 11 increase in the ground forces, which added 92,000 active-duty troops to the Army and Marine Corps

Acting on these suggested cutbacks alongside a menu of other sensible cost-control measures that we detailed in our report, would bring our defense spending back in line with our nation’s fiscal capabilities.

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