To the editor:
I am frustrated and perplexed at the limited number of options being looked at by the Congress for reducing the US deficit. Why do we hear so little about Pentagon spending? Experts agree that reducing the cost of our military can save billions without jeopardizing security. Gen. Colin Powell, Rep. Ron Paul and the Cato Institute join Rep. Barney Frank, the Center for Defense Information and Taxpayers for Common Sense in calling for rethinking US military policy. Cutting Pentagon spending does not have to reduce its effectiveness and may force a healthy re-look at US military policy.
It is actually not difficult to find savings of $1 trillion in the next ten years. We don’t need to spend $194 billion to beef up the nuclear weapons arsenal, including a new class of Trident submarines and continuing plans for the militarization of space. We could reduce the presence of US troops abroad: we now have more than 135,000 soldiers stationed at bases in non-combat countries. 227 bases in Germany alone. These bases will cost $1.2 trillion over the next ten years and can easily be cut by 1/3. Reducing the Navy fleet from 286 to 230 can save $127 billion over ten years. Procurement of unneeded and overpriced hardware could easily be reduced. It is unknown what additional savings and waste would be found if the Pentagon were subjected to simple audits. The list goes on.
Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee just cut funding for State Department diplomacy, development assistance to fragile countries, climate change adaptation, US peacekeeping and other programs that promote peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. These contribute far more to our security than a bloated Pentagon budget. Where are our priorities?
Senator Mark Udall has been active in the discussions about deficit reduction and is in a unique position as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to promote Pentagon savings. I urge him, Senator Bennett and Rep. Polis to advocate strongly for the Pentagon to do its part in deficit reduction. Specific ideas for making the US economically and well as militarily secure can be found at http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1006SDTFreport.pdf in the June 2010 report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force.