By Ryan Alexander
America has a unique opportunity to tackle the greatest long-term threat to our national security: the soaring debt.
Over the coming weeks,a small group in Congress is convening with aims to fix our long-term deficit crisis. This key group,in which Sen. Chuck Grassley,R Iowa,plays an influential role, should tackle every corner of the country’s expense account—including the Pentagon budget where untamed overhead, outdated strategy, and unlimited cost over runs threaten not only America’s fiscal foundation but also our nation’s security.
Consider this: Since 2001, the Pentagon’s budget has doubled. Today, the U.S. spends more on our military than the next 13 countries combined—most of whom are our friends and allies. It’s clear we must focus on our ballooning deficit—what then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen called “our biggest security threat.”
Investing in the right technology for our troops, eliminating duplication and waste, and cutting the national deficit will only make America’s defense posture stronger. Yet, some in Congress think we should spend even more.
Take for instance the M1 Abrams tank, which Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testified that he did not want or need. “We have the most modernized tank fleet we’ve ever had right now,” he said. The Army has repeatedly complained that Congress keeps adding back $3 billion to the defense budget each year to buy even more tanks even when two-thirds of them are now sitting in the Nevada desert.
It seems some in Congress have more interest in protecting their seats than our nation’s force.
Most Americans would probably also be surprised to hear that a large part of the Pentagon budget is not even directed toward defense. In recent years, the Pentagon has studied such frivolous things as whether the behavior of fish can help us understand citizen action in democracy. It even financed a report on the color of ancient dinosaur feathers. Such experiments may have their place in scientific literature, but it is hard to see their application in keeping Americans safe.
Our military is the most capable and dedicated force in the world, but Congress stands to undercut their ability to meet 21st century threats such as nuclear terrorism or cyber attacks by continuing to invest in strategies meant to defeat the Red Army. Every dollar we waste on programs the troops don’t want and the generals don’t need puts our national security at risk.
Today, the red threat we face comes not from the Soviet Union, but the bottom line of America’s fiscal solvency. A broke country cannot sustain a strong military. And since our national power is the aggregate of our diplomatic, military, and economic influence, we must address each one as critical elements of our national security.
Fortunately, recommendations for savings are everywhere. Republican Sen.Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has outlined savings of $67.9 billion over 10 years without cutting any Army brigade combat teams, Navy combat ships,or Air Force fighter squadrons.
At Taxpayers for Common Sense, we teamed up with the Project on Government Oversight to identify $688 billion in savings over 10 years in our report “Spending Even Less, Spending Even Smarter.”And already planned reductions in spending will simply bring Pentagon spending back to 2007 levels, when America was fighting two wars in the Middle East.
Grassley should use this opportunity to check wasteful bureaucratic spending at the Pentagon and make sure America’s defense needs a reserved with appropriate funding, careful oversight, and the right investment for America’s future.
Ryan Alexander is president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog.