A long-awaited discussion of Pentagon spending


In a series of interviews this month, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam smithDavid (Adam) Adam Smith Overnight Defense & National Security – Brought to you by AM General – The Quad confab The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – Democrats discuss price ahead of politics amid rush House passes sweeping bill on defense policy PLUS (D-Wash.) Said he was open to modest cuts to the Pentagon’s near-record $ 740 billion budget, but he also said he was “not convinced” by the progressive calls for more cuts. substantial. One of his main arguments is that we cannot cut Pentagon spending without a “conversation about the strategy, the plan for the future.”

It is high time to have this conversation. A contribution has already been made by the Center for International Policy Sustainable Defense Working Group (SDTF), a group of former White House, Congressional and Pentagon budget officials, retired military officers and think tank experts from all political backgrounds that we have co-chaired. The task force laid out a plan to save more than $ 1.2 trillion over the next decade by taking a more realistic view of the challenges posed by Russia and China, reducing the size of the armed forces, putting end to endless wars, rolling back the costly Pentagon and dangerous accumulation of nuclear weapons, reviving nuclear weapons control and reducing the employment of private contractors by the department. With a smarter strategy and a deeper effort to examine misguided and unnecessary spending, America and its allies can be made safer for less.

The discussion of Pentagon spending must be based on the realization that military force is not the answer to the most pressing challenges we face, as the global pandemic has made clear. The SDTF underlined this point in its June 2019 report:

“[T]he most pressing security risks for the United States are non-military. . . They include climate change, which undermines borders, leads to unpredictable extreme weather conditions and promotes uncontrollable migration; cyber attacks and cyber offensive operations, which undermine the credibility of the Internet and pose challenges to infrastructure security; global disease epidemics, which pose societal risks to all nations; and income and wealth disparities, which foster insecurity and conflict.

As the SDTF report notes, it’s important to remember that the Pentagon’s current spending is near its highest level since WWII. Adjusted for inflation, the current budget of $ 740 billion is Much more $ 100 billion more than spending at the height of Reagan’s build-up in the 1980s, and 50% more than at the height of the Vietnam and Korean wars. It has been said that the Pentagon’s spending could be “flat” for the next few years, but it would only be in the sense that the top of Mount Everest is flat. A budget of over $ 700 billion would be heavy, not flat, compared to most other budgets in the 75 years since the end of World War II.

Regarding specific cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, the SDTF would start by reducing active-duty military personnel by roughly 10% while cutting overseas troop deployments by more than a third. These are reasonable and indeed fairly conservative changes in the context of reducing the ability of the United States to engage in endless wars, relying more on allies in Asia and Europe, and resizing. a single force designed to be everywhere all the time. that can arise in areas of tension if necessary.

One key to reducing troop levels is to recognize that the challenges posed by China, Russia and Iran do not require greater spending from the Pentagon. China’s challenges are primarily political and economic, not military. And, there are areas like climate change and the fight against pandemics where cooperation between Washington and Beijing is essential. As for Russia, it spends only a third more on its military than America’s European allies, and its economy is smaller than that of Italy. Europe can take on more of Russia’s deterrence work. As for Iran, relying on diplomacy rather than military threats is the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and it could be part of a plan to reduce the US military presence in the Middle. East.

Another area of ​​economics is ending the Pentagon’s plan to build a new generation of nuclear bombers, submarines, land missiles, and nuclear warheads at a cost of up to 2,000 billion dollars over the next two decades. Current American forces are more than sufficient to deter any nation from attacking the United States and its allies. The Global Zero organization conducted a examination of the alternative nuclear posture which articulates a nuclear strategy “only dissuasive” which would reduce the size of the American nuclear arsenal while abandoning the program of nuclear modernization of the Pentagon.

Finally, the Pentagon employs an impressive 600,000 contractors, many of whom perform tasks that overlap with those already performed by government employees. Reducing the expenses of these subcontractors by 15% could save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years.

Fortunately, although he has expressed his skepticism, President Smith is open to further discussion of the Pentagon spending needed to protect us, as he noted in a recent meeting with the organization Win Without War. . Let the discussion begin.

William D. Hartung is the Weapons and Security Program Director at Center for International Politics (CIP). Ben Freeman heads the CIP’s Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative. They are co-directors of the CIP Sustainable Defense Working Group.


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