The Officer January/February 2011 : Page 16

capitol Hill connection Deficit Deliberations Capt Marshall a. hanson, Usnr (ret.) roa DireCtor of legislation Defense Department is viewed as bill payer. l-Qaeda might have promised death to the United Stated by a thousand cuts, but the deficit budget is more likely to hollow out U.S. national security than terrorist explosives. A number of groups have looked hungrily at the Department of Defense (DoD) budget as a means of offsetting soaring expenditures. President Barack Obama’s 18-member bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform called for a “cut in all excess spending” in its formal report released Dec. 1, 2010. It recommended $200 billion in cuts by 2015, half of which would come from defense. The $100 billion in defense savings would come from the following proposed actions, with savings noted in parentheses: • Freeze federal salaries, bonuses, and other DoD compensation for three years ($5.3 billion). • Freeze noncombat military pay at 2011 pay rate for three years ($9.2 billion). • Double defense contracting cuts proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates ($5.4 billion). • Reduce procurement by 15 percent ($20 billion), including ending V-22 Osprey procurement ($1.1 billion) and canceling the expeditionary fighting vehicle ($0.65 billion), substitute F-16 and F/A-18E aircraft for half of the Air Force’s and Navy’s planned F-35s ($2.3 billion), and cancel the Marine Corps’ F-35 ($3.9 billion), the Navy’s Future Maritime Prepositioning Force ($1 billion), joint light-tactical vehicle, ground combat vehicle, joint tactical radio ($2.3 billion), and “other procurement” ($8.5 billion). • Reduce overseas bases by one-third ($8.5 billion). • Modernize Tricare ($6 billion). • Replace military personnel performing commercial activities with civilians ($5.4 billion). • Reduce spending on research, development, test and evaluation by 10 percent ($7 billion). • Reduce spending on base support ($2 billion). • Reduce spending on facilities maintenance ($1.4 billion). • Consolidate DoD’s retail activities ($800 million). • Integrate children of military personnel into local schools in the United States ($1.1 billion). A 19-member Bipartisan Policy Center task force, noting that defense totals 20 percent of federal spending, recommended 16 the a five-year freeze in the Pentagon’s discretionary spending. This included “streamlining military end-strength, prioritizing defense investment, maintaining intelligence capabilities at a reduced cost, reforming military health care, and applying the savings from Mr. Gates’ efforts to deficit reduction.” Another group, the Strauss Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, wants to start with fundamentals. Winslow Wheeler, project director, explained in an opinion column in Politico that the Pentagon doesn’t have a workable accounting system, so it doesn’t know the actual costs of weapon development, and you can’t reform spending if you don’t know what you spend. “The only jolt that could shock this broken system into reform is less money,” he wrote. Even more opinions were expressed during a Cato forum on Deficits and Defense. Dr. Loren B. Thompson, Lexington Institute’s chief operating officer, said that while it’s easier to cut weapons systems instead of benefits, the result can be negative as well. Benjamin Friedman, a Cato research fellow, suggested changing strategies: Do less to cost less, rather than conducting the same missions with fewer dollars as was done in the past. panelist Rep. Barney Frank (D–Mass.) urged a redefinition of national security, saying that troops shouldn’t be peacekeepers and defense should be cut. In June, Rep. Frank’s Sustainable Defense Task Force suggested sizeable defense cuts . (See “Frank Report Cuts Defense Deep,” The Officer, September–October 2010.) Ironically, Mr. Gates, the only agency head to publicly seek $100 billion in savings, could lose the earnings from these efficiencies by efforts in Congress to offset the deficit or provide a windfall for domestic spending. The greatest motivator for change in how Congress spends money, however, was last November’s election. Surviving representatives and new members understand that voters want to reduce spending. Party differences, as well as intraparty disagreement, will impact where Congress makes budget cuts. Don’t be surprised to see a clash between pro-defense and fiscal hawk Republicans, who champion deficit reduction to the extent of cutting back the military.  Andrew Gonyea, ROA’s assistant communications director, contributed to this report. O fficer / J anuary –f ebruary 2011

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