National Public Radio & the Huffington Post – 2010-07-12 20:38:49
Odd Couple: Frank And Paul Target Military Spending
(July 10, 2010) — Governments around the country are feeling the strain of budget pressures, and in Washington, at least, that strain is producing some strange alliances. Take Congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank: The libertarian Republican and the liberal Democrat co-wrote a piece for Huffington Post this past week that takes aim at a longtime budgetary sacred cow: US military spending.
The unlikely pair want to trim the Pentagon’s budget by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, significantly reducing US military presence around the world, including Europe. Frank tells NPR’s Lynn Neary that it’s time the nation updated its military approach.
“This hangover from the Cold War, when America was seen as the superpower that had to protect everybody everywhere from everything, is outdated. In fact, it’s often counterproductive.” If America doesn’t scale back its military footprint, Frank says, the price will be cutting domestic programs and increased taxes.
“That’s what we’re talking about,” he says. “We’re talking about, in particular, the overreach, the overview that America as a world power has this responsibility to protect military power everywhere — and it’s enormously expensive.”
Scaling Back America’s Military Footprint
One target in Frank’s sights: the US military base in Okinawa. “We don’t need 15,000 marines in Okinawa â€“ they’re a hangover from a war that ended 65 years ago. And Japan now ought to be able to defend itself.”
Frank says US sea and air power can deal with any threats from China, so having troops stationed nearby is unnecessary. “No one thinks you’re going to land 15,000 Marines on the Chinese mainland to confront millions of Chinese military.”
Same goes for Europe. “NATO was a great accomplishment 61 years ago,” Frank points out. “I don’t see why we need troops in Okinawa or why we need troops in Germany, why we need troops in Italy.”
Some have argued that it’s normal to position troops in ally countries. “Well, if that’s the case, where are the Belgian troops in Arizona? Where are the French troops in South Dakota?”
Besides closing bases, Frank sees another place for major cost savings. “During the Cold War, we had three ways of destroying the Soviet Union with thermonuclear weapons,” he says. “We had nuclear submarines; we had the intercontinental ballistic missile and the strategic air command.”
These days, Russia’s not the threat it used to be. Frank’s proposal to the Pentagon is simple: “You know these three ways you have of destroying what’s now Russia? Why don’t you keep two and give up one? And save us tens of billions a year.”
A Bipartisan Task Force
To look for more ways to trim the military budget, Frank set up a bipartisan commission. The Sustainable Defense Task Force includes people from the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute as well as “people with environmental and peace credentials,” Frank says.
The task force has already proposed plans that it says would save $100 billion a year through military cuts. It’s a proactive attempt to direct the attention of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission.
“What Ron Paul and I are doing,” Frank says, “is writing to them and saying, ‘Don’t just come to us and say we’re going to raise taxes and we’re going to limit Social Security and cut EPA, etc., etc. There needs to be proportional reductions in the military budget. And we are going to tell them that if they don’t add that, we don’t vote for their program.”
The bipartisan nature of the task force suggests that support for Frank and Paul’s proposals comes from all corners of the political spectrum. Frank is clear that he is willing to work with nearly anyone in this effort â€“ even the Tea Party.
“There are always going to be points of common ground,” he says, and budget cuts are one of the Tea Party’s priorities. Frank says he may disagree with them on a number of things, but he’d welcome their support. But trimming the military’s budget might be as far as that bipartisan compact might go. What happens to any savings will be another matter. Frank says that’s a debate for another day. Right now the objective is clear.
“If we aren’t able to make those cuts in the military, then we are going to find pressures for taxes higher than Ron wants — and that I might even want — and for domestic cuts more than I want,” he says.
“We would like to be able to save that money and then have that second debate.”
Why We Must Reduce Military Spending
Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul / The Huffington Post
(July 6, 2010) — As members of opposing political parties, we disagree on a number of important issues. But we must not allow honest disagreement over some issues to interfere with our ability to work together when we do agree.
By far the single most important of these is our current initiative to include substantial reductions in the projected level of American military spending as part of future deficit reduction efforts. For decades, the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate. Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion — more than all other discretionary spending programs combined.
Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.
It is irrefutably clear to us that if we do not make substantial cuts in the projected levels of Pentagon spending, we will do substantial damage to our economy and dramatically reduce our quality of life.
We are not talking about cutting the money needed to supply American troops in the field. Once we send our men and women into battle, even in cases where we may have opposed going to war, we have an obligation to make sure that our servicemembers have everything they need. And we are not talking about cutting essential funds for combating terrorism; we must do everything possible to prevent any recurrence of the mass murder of Americans that took place on September 11, 2001.
Immediately after World War II, with much of the world devastated and the Soviet Union becoming increasingly aggressive, America took on the responsibility of protecting virtually every country that asked for it. Sixty-five years later, we continue to play that role long after there is any justification for it, and currently American military spending makes up approximately 44% of all such expenditures worldwide.
The nations of Western Europe now collectively have greater resources at their command than we do, yet they continue to depend overwhelmingly on American taxpayers to provide for their defense.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism. Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella.”
When our democratic allies are menaced by larger, hostile powers, there is a strong argument to be made for supporting them. But the notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our military might worldwide is deeply flawed. And the idea that as a superpower it is our duty to maintain stability by intervening in civil disorders virtually anywhere in the world often generates anger directed at us and may in the end do more harm than good.
We believe that the time has come for a much quicker withdrawal from Iraq than the President has proposed. We both voted against that war, but even for those who voted for it, there can be no justification for spending over $700 billion dollars of American taxpayers’ money on direct military spending in Iraq since the war began, not including the massive, estimated long-term costs of the war. We have essentially taken on a referee role in a civil war, even mediating electoral disputes.
In order to create a systematic approach to reducing military spending, we have convened a Sustainable Defense Task Force consisting of experts on military expenditures that span the ideological spectrum.
The task force has produced a detailed report with specific recommendations for cutting Pentagon spending by approximately $1 trillion over a ten-year period. It calls for eliminating certain Cold War weapons and scaling back our commitments overseas. Even with these changes, the United States would still be immeasurably stronger than any nation with which we might be engaged, and the plan will in fact enhance our security rather than diminish it.
We are currently working to enlist the support of other members of Congress for our initiative. Along with our colleagues Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Walter Jones, we have addressed a letter to the President’s National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which he has convened to develop concrete recommendations for reducing the budget deficit.
We will make it clear to leaders of both parties that substantial reductions in military spending must be included in any future deficit reduction package. We pledge to oppose any proposal that fails to do so.
In the short term, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs will remain our nation’s top priority. But it is essential that we begin to address the issue of excessive military spending in order to ensure prosperity in the future. We may not agree on what to do with the estimated $1 trillion in savings, but we do agree that nothing either of us cares deeply about will be possible if we do not begin to face this issue now.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.