Worried About The Deficit? Why Not Choose Sustainable Defense?

That’s the message Congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX), along with 55 of their Capitol Hill colleagues are pushing.

On October 13, 2010 they sent a letter to the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform advocating defense cuts. The letter contains a broad range of options for cutting Pentagon spending, and states that “it is clear to us that cutting the military budget must be part of any viable [deficit/debt reduction] proposal.” The Commission is scheduled to release its recommendations on December 1, 2010

Many of the proposals included by Reps. Frank and Paul – cutting the number of U.S. military personnel based overseas, canceling unneeded Cold War weapons program, and improving the Pentagon’s acquisition system, for example – are drawn from “Debt, Deficits, and Defense: A Way Forward," the report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, which was released back in June.

The Task Force, of which I am a member, is a non-partisan group of national security experts. Our goal was to show how the Pentagon can – and should – make a significant contribution to deficit reduction while advancing our national security goals. The report presents options for reducing military spending – saving nearly $1 trillion over the next decade – without adversely impacting U.S. national security interests.

Clearly people are listening, Defense Secretary Gates and other Pentagon leaders are pushing a very limited agenda of spending “efficiencies” intended to generate $100 billion in savings over five years, in part to head off growing support for deep military spending cuts. And recently a group of conservative think tanks formally released a new paper they’re calling “Defending Defense.” Written jointly by the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Foreign Policy Initiative – ultra-cons who are fiscal conservatives when it comes to every federal program other than the Pentagon – it tries to explain why the U.S. defense budget should not be cut even as it plunges the nation deeper and deeper into debt.

It’s a tired message, one that ignores the global strategic environment and the long-term threat to our nation’s economy of unending deficits and spiraling debt. There is a way to make significant cuts in Pentagon spending while improving our ability to promote our interests around the world.

You can find the SDTF report “Debt, Deficits, and Defense” at: