Disparate defense think tanks reach common ground on defense cuts | The Hill’s DEFCON Hill

By Carlo Muñoz

Several high-profile defense think tanks from across the political spectrum are on relatively the same page, in terms of what kind of financial hit the Pentagon should take in the coming decade, according to a recently released report.

The study, compiled by Washington-based National Security Network, found the average spending reduction to DOD coffers recommended by these think thanks came to just over $510 billion over the next ten years.

That number dwarfs the $100 to $300 billion top defense industry leaders proposed in early December as the most budget reductions the Pentagon could handle, while maintaining national security priorities worldwide.

The report is already making the rounds on Capitol Hill, with several key members of the House and Senate leadership receiving copies of NSN’s findings.

Researchers at NSN surveyed disparate proposals for Pentagon spending reductions drafted by Project on Defense Alternatives, Center for a New American Security, Center for American Progress, The Stimson Center, RAND Corporation and The Project on Government Oversight.

The left-leaning Center for American Progress called for the steepest cuts among the think tanks surveyed, calling for $1 trillion in defense spending over the decade.

Conversely, officials at the Center for a New American Security called for a mere $150 billion in cuts, with RAND analysts calling for slightly less with its $213 billion figure, according to the NSN report.

But when averaged in total with the other recommended reduction levels proposed among the remaining think tanks surveyed, the final figure comes to $510 billion.

Despite those large swings in suggested cuts by the different think tanks, there was a common theme among all the organizations that DOD was long overdue for some serious fiscal belt tightening.

“All [organizations] agree the Pentagon can and should re prioritize its myriad missions, reduce significantly its overall spending, and reshape its structure to support a robust national security strategy over the next decade,” according to a summary of the NSN report.

Timing of the report comes just as congressional Republicans and the White House are pressing ahead with last-minute negotiations over the administration’s so-called sequestration plan.

Set to go into effect in January, the plan will trigger over $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts across the U.S. government, with over half of those reductions coming from DOD coffers.

Until recently, Republicans have refused to budge on their opposition to the White House’s calls for increased taxes on the nation’s top earners to avoid sequestration.

For their part, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have also been unwavering in their refusal for additional cuts to key social welfare programs proposed by GOP leaders.

But on Monday, news broke that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had drafted a new proposal that would allow tax increases on Americans making more than $1 million in income annually.

While well below the $250,000 threshold set by President Obama, the deal is indicative of the movement being made on the part of Republicans on the issue of revenue increases.

While members of the defense industry have continually pressed Republican lawmakers to give ground on tax increases, top officials still believe that a $500 billion cut to Pentagon spending would be devastating for the U.S. defense sector.

David Langstaff, the CEO of the Analytic Sciences Corp., said the resistance that some Republicans are showing to tax increases is “just nonsense.”

“They have to be on the table,” Langstaff said during a Dec. 3 industry forum on the fiscal impact of sequestration on the defense sector.

That said, the American defense industrial base would only be able to bear a cut of $100 to $300 billion in DOD spending over the next ten years, in order to stay viable while meeting the department’s national security needs, Langstaff said at the time.

via Disparate defense think tanks reach common ground on defense cuts | The Hill’s DEFCON Hill.