The Friends Committee on National Legislation – 2011-05-21 23:03:39
A $2 Trillion Solution
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Who Says It’s Time to Cut Pentagon Spending?
“Anybody who says you can’t save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon.”
— Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi and former chair of the Republican National Committee, speaking in Davenport, IA, 3/15/11
“I don’t think the defense budget should be made sacrosanct.”
— Colin Powell, former secretary of state and retired general, speaking on CNN, 1/23/11
“We can achieve safe savings in defense if we are willing to rethink how we produce military power and how, why, and where we put it to use.”
— From a letter submitted by 46 national security experts to President Obamaâ€™s fiscal commission, 11/18/10
“Taking defense spending off the table is indefensible. We need to protect our nation, not the Pentagon’s sacred cows.”
— Senator Tom Coburn (OK), Washington Examiner op-ed, 11/3/10
“At a time of growing concern over federal deficits, it is essential that all elements of the federal budget be subjected to careful scrutiny. The Pentagon budget should be no exception.”
— Bipartisan Sustainable Defense Task Force report, 6/11/10. The Task Force was convened by Reps. Barney Frank (MA) and Ron Paul (TX).
WASHINGTON — The federal budget deficit is center stage in Washington. The administration and most members of Congress agree that the federal debt level cannot be allowed to rise indefinitely. Yet the agreement often ends there.
The federal government could save $1 trillion with cuts to the Pentagon budget during the next 10 years, according to a report prepared by a range of groups, including the Project for Defense Alternatives, the Cato Institute (Libertarians), and Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Another $1 trillion in revenue could be raised by eliminating the recently extended tax breaks for families with incomes over $250,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. These two measures would reduce the deficit by $2 trillion over the next 10 years.
Neither of these proposals have gotten much attention in Congress. Attention instead has focused on how to trim the “fat” from proven, effective programs that don’t have much fat to trim.
A Debate on Priorities, Not Budget Cuts
The answers to when and how government should act to bring the federal budget into balance will reveal a great deal about the priorities of our nation. All of us have a stake in helping to set the priorities that should guide this debate.
FCNL’s Policy Statement, developed through a discernment process with Quakers across the country, states that ongoing federal programs and activities should be paid for with current revenues. Government borrowing is appropriate only for countering economic recessions and making long-term investments in research, education, health, environmental protections, and public infrastructure.
The priorities and principles outlined above point to a moral and rational path to economic sustainability for the U.S. economy.
1. Not all cuts are equal. The family without a home knows a different meaning of the word “need” than a millionaire expecting a tax break on a third home. Effective federal government programs with a proven record of achievement in providing a â€œsafety netâ€ should be preserved to break the fall of those who are most vulnerable to economic crises.
2. Spending cuts should focus heavily on wasteful spending in the military budget and other areas. For example, several independent studieshave shown that the Pentagon wastes more money in most years than some cabinet agencies get in their full budgets.
3. Government should focus on the future. As our nationâ€™s priorities change, the government needs to stop providing tax breaks and investment incentives for war and fossil fuel industries, and instead provide incentives to invest in preventing war, addressing human needs, and developing alternative sources of energy.
4. The tax system should be fair. Taxes in the U.S. are low and getting lower As a percent of gross domestic product (GDP), combined taxes in the United States (including federal, state, and local taxes) are the third lowest among our trading partners in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In 2000, personal income taxes in the U.S. were equivalent to 12.2 percent of GDP; by 2008, the level had dropped to just 9.6 percent of GDP. The current economy demonstrates that this low level of revenue is unsustainable.
What are your priorities for government spending? Join FCNL in this important effort to determine the priorities for our nation not just for the next year, but for the next decades.
Will It Finally Be on the Table?
Times are tough, and Congress is worried about deficits. Members from across the political spectrum — from very liberal to conservative — are urging careful attention to spending on effective programs, with clear missions and proven track records. Waste is anathema; accountability and transparency are the watchwords of the day.
The President’s bipartisan commission on the deficit recommended cuts in Pentagon spending. The Sustainable Defense Task Force, convened by a bipartisan group in Congress, identified nearly $1 trillion in potential cuts over the next ten years. Expert groups and volunteer commissions across the political spectrum issued a raft of recommendations; all agreed that Congress could and should cut $70 to $100 billion per year from Pentagon spending over the next 10 years.
Yet other than small trims here and there recommended by the Secretary of Defense (see “Just a Little Off the Sides, Please.” in the September/October 2010 FCNL Washington Newsletter), Congress has been unwilling to grapple with the waste, redundancy, and open-ended objectives that characterize the Pentagon budget.
The size of the Pentagon budget is itself impressive. Military spending has doubled in the last 10 years, and it accounts for half of the discretionary spending that Congress allocates in appropriations bills every year. The United States spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on its military. The U.S. military presence in the world includes hundreds of military bases in Europe and Asia and 142,000 troops to staff these bases.
Pentagon spending is opaque and not at all accountable to Congress. The Pentagon has never completed an audit. The General Accountability Office has found that Pentagon contracts have incurred $300 billion in cost overruns in the last five years — enough to fund eight out of twelve Cabinet departments for a year.
In fact, Pentagon contracts are not transparent even to the Pentagon. Retired Army Lt. General John Vines was given an assignment to find out how many contracts the Pentagon has and what the thousands of contracts are accomplishing for Pentagon missions. Vines commented, “We don’t even know if all this activity is making us safer.”
Many members of Congress, encouraged by lobbyists for weapons manufacturers, support continued production of obsolete or unneeded weapons systems, even against Pentagon requests and advice. These legislators have been led to believe that military contracts are essential for job creation in their states and districts. In fact, military contracts are not a job-creation engine.
According to a University of Massachusetts-Amherst study, military dollars spent in a state yield the least number of jobs, compared to investments in health, education, transportation, and even tax cuts.
In 49 states, 94 percent of the state domestic product depends on other industries and services — not on military contracts. The fiftieth, Virginia, hosts the Pentagon and hundreds of related contractors; even so, 90 percent of the state’s economy depends on other sectors.
These facts have not yet translated into policy change. Your members of Congress need to keep hearing from you that the Pentagon budget should be the first thing they look at if they are looking for places to bring federal spending more in line with federal revenues.
Ten Reasons Why Congress Should Cut the Pentagon Budget
FCNL (September 21, 2010)
1. Military spending accounts for half of the discretionary budget — too big to ignore
2. Military spending has doubled in the last ten years — worth taking a look at
3. The Pentagon budget has a history of cost overruns — $300 billion above what Congress authorized for various weapons systems in the last 5 years
4. The Pentagon budget has not been accountable to Congress — no audits
5. Pentagon contracting is out of control — standards, quality control and review for redundancies could yield significant efficiencies and savings. Retired Army Lt. General John Vines — we don’t even know if all this activity is making us safer.
6. The U.S. military budget accounts for 46.5 percent of global military spending.
7. U.S. presence in the world includes hundreds of military bases in Europe — particularly in Germany. Are these bases necessary to legitimate U.S. missions?
8. The military budget is funding weapons systems that the Pentagon does not want or need for current missions.
9. Military contracts are not a job-creation engine. Military dollars spent in a state yield the least number of jobs, compared to investments in health, education, transportation, and even tax cuts.
10. Local economies are not dependent on job creation through military contracts with private firms. In all but one state, at least 94 percent of the gross state domestic product does not arise from military contracts with local companies. Even in Virginia, which hosts the Pentagon, 90 percent of the stateâ€™s economy relies on non-military goods and services.
1. Military spending accounts for half of the discretionary budget: Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Historical Tables, table 8-9. For 2010, total discretionary budget authority (BA) = $1,247,265 million. Function 050 (military) discretionary BA = $717,125 million, 57%
2. Military spending has doubled in the last ten years: (OMB) Historical Tables, Table 5-1. Function 050 BA in 2001 = $334,705 million; Function 050 BA in 2010 = $722,138 million.
3. The Pentagon budget has a history of cost overruns. A March 2008 report of the Government Accountability Office (DEFENSE ACQUISITIONS: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs #08-467SP) found that 95 major systems had exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and were delivered almost two years late on average.
4. The Pentagon budget has not been audited, and is not auditable. Reuters, Tue Oct 16, 2007 “Complete Pentagon audit still years away.”
5. Pentagon contracting is out of control. The Washington Post, “Top Secret America” investigative series. Statement by Ret. Army Lt. General John Vines , page 3.
6. The U.S. military budget accounts for 46.5% of global military spending.
7. U.S. presence in the world includes hundreds of military bases in Europe — particularly in Germany. Debt, Deficits & Defense: A Way Forward, page 17.
8. The military budget is funding weapons systems that the Pentagon does not want or need for current missions. For example, the F-22.
9. Military contractors are not a job-creation engine. â€œWhy Military Spending Creates Fewer Jobs than Alternatives (Clean Energy, Health Care, Education): “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities,” Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, October 2007
10. Local economies are not dependent on job creation through military dollars. “Comparison of 2008 State Domestic Product to Value of Military Contracts”
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