While newly elected House Republicans have vowed not to cut military spending, increased pressure from nonpartisan national security experts are calling for heavy defense spending cuts to help ease the U.S. deficit, as reported by Reuters.
"U.S. combat power dramatically exceeds that of any plausible combination of conventional adversaries," said the letter to the presidential debt-reduction commission, which described the U.S. military peacetime presence abroad as a largely outmoded Cold War holdover.
The letter echoed a proposal from another debt-reduction plan last week, Restoring America’s Future, which outlines sweeping changes in taxes and other federal programs, to reduce projected deficits by $5.9 trillion through 2020. The report suggests a five-year freeze on Pentagon spending at 2010 levels from fiscal 2012 through 2016, which wouldn’t even account for inflation. If implemented, the military would lose $431 billion in additional spending that was projected by the Congressional Budget Office. Yet savings through 2020 would be about $1.1 trillion.
Potential cuts recommended by the group include cancelling all three versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22 plane/helicopter, the amphibious Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, Virginia Class submarine and ballistic missile defense. The F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, is the Pentagon’s most expensive program ever at a projected costs of $382 billion for 2,457 planes.
“The federal budget is on a dangerous, unsustainable path,” the Restoring America’s Future report stated. “Even after the economy recovers from this deep recession, federal spending is projected to rise substantially faster than revenues and the government will be forced to borrow ever-increasing amounts.”
Yet these proposed cuts seem unlikely to be implemented without contentious debate. Prospective Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (Calif.) recently vowed to not cut defense spending while admitting its unlikely Congress will pass the defense policy bill this year.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has made efforts to cut overhead costs of the Defense Department in order to avoid program cuts, said the Department of Defense is not part of the deficit problem, despite the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget.
"The truth of the matter is when it comes to the deficit, the Department of Defense is not the problem," Gates told Time of the commission’s recommendations. "I think in terms of the specifics they came up with, that is math not strategy."