By Shawn Zeller, CQ Staff
House Republicans made clear last year that they want to shift the burden of the sequester from the Defense Department to domestic programs and entitlements by passing two bills to do just that. And GOP lawmakers may try again before the debate is over. But they aren’t getting much help from several conservative advocacy groups that are usually among their best allies.
Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union were among the organizations signing a letter last month saying the Pentagon could withstand $50 billion to $100 billion in annual cuts, considerably more than the $46 billion hit that the sequester will bring this year. (Related story, p. 450)
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“Lawmakers can, and should, find areas for substantial savings in the Pentagon’s bloated budget,” the groups wrote. “Our organizations believe that sequester might not be the best way to reshape Pentagon spending, but that should not serve as an excuse to avoid fundamental reforms.”
The Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, orchestrated the letter sent to President Barack Obama and members of Congress. The statement also was signed by a variety of liberal groups. “We think it’s very powerful to show the unanimity across the ideological spectrum,” says Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the project.
However, the groups aren’t united on the specific cuts they envision. For instance, the liberal think tank Center for American Progress wants to reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons for a savings of $28 billion a year. Citizens Against Government Waste prefers delaying the rebuilding of Abrams tanks to save $3 billion a year.
Canterbury says that while the letter may not yet reveal it, there is an emerging consensus around some specifics, such as scrapping the prolonged and costly procurement of F-35 fighters, pulling troops out of Europe and reducing the number of top generals.