Pentagon claims that defense reductions would be “devastating” to national security are being refuted by liberals, fiscal conservatives and nonpartisan analysts who have identified a significant amount of excess in the military budget that could be trimmed.
Hawkish members of the 12-lawmaker debt-reduction supercommittee, which was established to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next ten years, have avowed to block any proposed military cuts.
Failure to hit the savings target will trigger a sequestration mechanism that would reduce defense spending automatically. However, Republicans have been conspiring ways to prevent the cuts from taking effect.
Many Americans are skeptical a dime of savings can’t be found in a military budget that has doubled to $700 billion since 9/11. In fact, 64 percent of respondents in a study conducted by the University of Maryland supported an average baseline cut of over $100 billion.
A recent analysis conducted by the nonpartisan Institute for Policy Studies (ISP) concluded that the Pentagon could slash more than $77 billion from next year’s budget alone across eight different programs.
The ISP’s recommendations, which include reductions in nuclear weapons, air wings, submarines and carrier battle groups, seem like commonsensical cuts that would not compromise U.S. security in spend areas the defense establishment itself has been hard-pressed to justify.
For example, military officials have been unable to explain why the U.S. needs 11 carrier groups when no other country has more than one. And their rationale for the continual stockpiling of nukes defies logic even further.
In a Nov. 1 interview with Inside the Pentagon, House Armed Services Committee member Rob Andrews (D-NJ) crystallized the absurdity of America’s bloated nuclear arsenal:
“We have the ability to blow up the world 25 times over right now, and adding a 26th or a 27th time doesn’t seem to me to be a very wise investment of our resources,” Andrews said.
Last week Andrews and Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) presented the supercommittee with a number of ways to reach the $600 billion defense cut bogey, such as closing unnecessary overseas bases, including Cold War legacy sites.
According to a Sustainable Defense Task Force report the demobilization of 50,000 active-duty soldiers in Europe and Asia alone could save as much as $80 billion.
Lawrence Korb from the Center for American Progress outlined ten recommendations for reducing defense spending by $677 billion. Along with reducing ground forces to pre-9/11 levels which would save $147 billion, he also advocated canceling weapons systems like the V-22 Osprey helicopter which costs five times as much as other models – a program Dick Cheney even tried to shut down.
Korb recommends cutting the procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which continues to suffer extreme overruns with lifetime costs recently reaching $1 trillion. And Korb concurs with Andrews that the U.S. nuclear program needs to be rolled back:
Our massive nuclear stockpile is a relic of the Cold War, expensive to maintain, and largely useless in combating the threats facing the nation today. According to strategists at the Air War College and the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, the United States requires only 311 nuclear weapons to maintain a credible deterrent. Such a reduction would save at least $11 billion a year.
It seems ludicrous that many Republicans and hawkish Democrats fail to see opportunities to reduce military costs. It’s obvious their recalcitrance is motivated by politics, considering defense cuts translate into job losses in their respective districts. Not to mention the pressure being applied by defense lobbyists.
The Boston Globe’s Juliette Kayyem describes the defense industry’s attempt to link job creation to defense spending as “a well-orchestrated mythology” considering most military spending is capital intensive:
Take a single F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Only 1.5 percent of its total costs (estimates are about $200 million per plane) are spent on labor to assemble and manufacture the entire aircraft.
A 2009 study by the University of Massachusetts found that defense spending isn’t as efficient at job creation as other industries, citing that military expenditures yield 12,000 jobs per $1 billion in spending, compared with 17,000 for the green economy, 20,000 for health care and 29,000 for education.
It’s quite ironic to see right-wingers defend military spending as a means of job creation, a crowd Congressman Frank once referred to as “weaponized Keynesians”, explaining:
“…that the government does not create jobs when it funds the building of bridges or important research or retrains workers, but when it builds airplanes that are never going to be used in combat, that is of course economic salvation.”
More on DEFENSE SPENDING:
Defense budget cuts will make America stronger
Obama trumps Bush in global militarism
For more articles by Michael Hughes go to www,michaelhughesassoc.com
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