By Hayes Brown
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen is going on the offensive once more, this time in pursuit of cuts to military spending.
Mullen, who has previously called the national debt the “most significant threat to our national security,” is heading the new Coalition for Fiscal and National Security along with several other foreign policy luminaries. The group, operating out of the Peter G Peterson Foundation, is seeking to influence the debate surrounding the fiscal cliff by lending their gravitas in support of military cuts that are currently unpopular on the Hill.
In one of their first acts, the Coalition has put out a full-page ad in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and other newspapers today, calling attention to the lessened need for overwhelming superiority in military spending:
“In previous eras, increased defense spending may have been required to maintain security,” the group wrote in a joint statement. “That is no longer the case. In our judgment, advances in technological capabilities and the changing nature of threats make it possible, if properly done, to spend less on a more intelligent, efficient and contemporary defense strategy that maintains our military superiority and national security.”
Areas that the Coalition believes could be targeted for savings include pension, health-care, and procurement costs. That spending would then be channeled into facets of national security that are under-funded, such as diplomacy and international organizations. As a comparison, in Fiscal Year 2012 the Pentagon requested $553 billion in funding; the State Department requested a paltry $47 billion in comparison.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2011 the U.S. spends about as much on supporting its military as the next ten countries’ expenditures combined. Just last night, the Senate unanimously passed a $630 billion bill to fund the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons for FY 2013.
The Coalition’s recommendations echo several of those put forward by the Center for American Progress Task Force on a Unified Security Budget’s recently published report calling for balancing the U.S. security budget, including providing more funding to non-military areas of national security.