Press Release

RELEASE: Strong and Sustainable

How to Reduce Military Spending While Keeping Our Nation Safe

By Lawrence Korb, Laura Conley | September 23, 2010

Download this report (pdf)

Download the executive summary (pdf)

Washington, D.C. — Total defense spending in real terms is now higher than at any time since the end of World War II, more than throughout the entire Cold War, and even 10 percent higher than the peak of the Reagan defense buildup. The baseline defense budget has been growing in real terms for 13 straight years—the longest-ever period of sustained real growth in U.S. defense spending. As a result, the portion of the world’s military expenditures the United States consumes compared to our potential adversaries has grown from 60 percent to 250 percent. Presidents from Eisenhower to Obama have recognized our national security is directly tied to the health of our economy, and trimming the defense budget in a sensible way can help the nation achieve a balanced budget by FY 2015.

In a new paper released today by the Center for American Progress, Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley identify roughly $109 billion that could be saved in the FY 2015 defense budget without compromising vital U.S. national security interests. No country can buy perfect security, and there is always an element of risk no matter how much is spent on the Pentagon. But the configuration outlined in this report offers a series of options that provide needed savings at minimal risk.

As discussed in today’s press call with Lawrence Korb and Michael Ettlinger, those areas include:

  • Redirecting savings from Secretary Gates’ efficiency initiative to reduce the overall federal budget
  • Gradually rolling back the growth in the ground forces since September 11, 2001
  • Canceling or scaling back a number of defense-acquisition programs

The Center for American Progress also released a report this past week about the need to achieve primary balance—a budget in which total government revenues are equal to total government spending with the exception of interest on the debt. Their recent work examined scenarios in which primary balance could be achieved in FY 2015 through a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The options presented in this paper complement their work by providing defense spending reductions to help meet overall spending-cut goals.

(For more information on this report about deficit reduction and achieving a balanced budget, read, “A Thousand Cuts.”)

To read the full report on the defense budget, click here.

To listen to today’s press call, click here.

Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow and Laura Conley is a Special Assistant for National Security and International Policy at American Progress.