S01E06 – Debt, Deficits & Defense: A Way Forward

10:08 am in Uncategorized by mainstreetinsider

cross-posted from Main Street Insider

This week, we’ve decided to branch out a bit. In Episode 6, we are looking at a report by the Sustainable Defense Task Force, convened earlier this year at the request of several Congresspeople led by Barney Frank and Ron Paul. The commission, whose members range across the ideological spectrum, have examined the defense budget in depth and issued recommendations for savings.

We decided this report would make for a good summary because it:

is directly relevant to a politically charged topic,
is directly associated with certain members of Congress in a way that resembles the sponsors of a bill, and
contains concrete policy prescriptions.
Expect to see more outside reports of a similar nature in the future. In the meantime, here’s Episode 6: Debt, Deficits and Defense!

Debt, Deficits & Defense: A Way Forward
Report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force
Released 6/11/10
Requested by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA4), Ron Paul (R-TX14), Walter Jones (R-NC3) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Click here to download this summary (pdf)

Participating organizations: Project on Defense Alternatives, Cato Institute, New America Foundation, National Priorities Project, National Security Network, Center for American Progress, Peace Action, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Institute for Policy Studies, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Center for Defense Information

Read the executive summary: http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/SDTFreportexsum.pdf

Purpose: When President Obama announced a freeze on discretionary spending over the next three years, he specifically exempted defense spending. Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Ron Paul and others believe this to be a grave mistake, as annual discretionary spending today is $583 billion above the level set in 2001 and the rise in defense spending accounts for almost 65% of this increase. Non-war defense spending is responsible for 37%.

Summary: The Report lays out a number of concrete steps DoD can take to reduce up to $960 billion over a decade. All of the Report’s ideas have been proposed, directly or indirectly, by President Obama and/or Secretary Gates.

The Task Force has focused especially on reductions that might be implemented without compromising the nation’s essential security:

• DoD programs that are based on unreliable or unproven technologies,
• Military missions and capabilities that exhibit low military utility or a poor cost-benefit payoff,
• Assets and capabilities that mismatch or substantially over-match current and emerging military challenges, and
• Opportunities for providing needed capabilities and assets at lower cost via management reforms.

Options for Savings in Defense
Strategic Capabilities: $194.5 billion
Conventional Forces: $443.9 billion
Procurement and R&D: $136.65 billion
Personnel Costs: $120.0 billion
Maintenance and Supply Systems: $13.0 billion
Command, Support, and Infrastructure: $100.0 billion
TOTAL: ~$960 billion over the 2011-2020 period

Note: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has proposed some modest restructuring of the defense budget in recent months, and those proposals are currently being reviewed by Congress, but they do not directly yield significant spending cuts.

Supporters: See above.

• Supporters believe the defense budget must be part of the equation if deficit reduction efforts are to proceed in good faith. There is a large amount of waste in the Pentagon that can be cut without hurting national security.

Opposition: Representatives of the industries and locations (particularly Virginia) expected to be hit hardest by the cuts.

• Opponents argue that cuts will lead to substantial job losses, exacerbating economic troubles, and could harm national security if done haphazardly.

Further links
Full report: http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1006SDTFreport.pdf
Video and transcript of briefing concurrent with report’s release: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/294024-1
Rep. Frank press release about circulation letter: http://house.gov/frank/pressreleases/2010/08-16-08-frank-asks-colleagues-support-military-spending.html (note: actual release date is August 16th, 2010)
NYTimes article about President’s proposed spending freeze: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/us/politics/26budget.html
WaPo article about Sec. Gates proposal: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/09/AR2010080906083.html
Center for American Progress report: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/09/defense_spending.html