Saturday, November 17, 2012
But so is eliminating deficit spending and reducing the national debt, which now sits at more than $16 trillion.
As Congress and the president focus on deficit reduction, most of the eyes are on military spending. It is where the big money is being spent.
The U.S. military budget has doubled in the past decade, and that does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars specifically allocated to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it would be counterproductive to allow the automatic across-the-board cuts to military spending of tens of billions of dollars to kick in next year. Congress agreed last year to automatic cuts in military and domestic funding to serve as a stick to force Congress back to the bargaining table to come up with specific cuts to reduce the deficit.
It’s now time to have reasonable discussions about making cuts.
The task at hand is coming up with a deficit-reduction plan totaling $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years.
Clearly, the military is an area of federal spending to find significant savings. But those cuts must be very specific and targeted.
“It is a big piggybank,” said former Wyoming U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican who along with Democrat Erskine Bowles headed a commission that came up with a recommended $4 trillion in budget cuts over a decade. “If you can’t get in there and start getting stuff out of there when you have a defense budget of $740 billion bucks — and the defense budget of every major country on Earth, 17 of them, including Russia and China, is $540 billion combined. Who is joshing who? That’s madness, madness.”
Cuts certainly can be made, but it won’t be simple because defense spending is about more than national security, it’s also about the national economy. A lot of jobs — public and private sector — are tied to defense spending.
The military bases in the Tacoma area, the Navy in Bremerton and Everett and the Air Force in Spokane are all major economic forces. And locally we have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office and the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center.
This is why Congress, with the advice of military leaders, needs to figure out what can be cut with the least damage to national defense and the American economy.
The ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately result in a significant savings, although the physical and mental toll the war has taken in damaged lives is an obligation the nation will have to fund for years.
Still, targeted cuts can be made. The military budget isn’t necessarily lean. The members of Congress have, for example, forced the Pentagon to take more money than requested because it benefited specific bases or defense contractors in certain lawmakers’ states or districts. This type of unnecessary spending is a good place to start the reductions.