From opposite sides, congressmen agree on the need for cuts
By most accounts, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank is one of the most liberal members of Congress. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is so conservative he is often called a Libertarian and his son is a leading tea party candidate.
But Frank and Paul agree on at least two issues: The federal deficit needs to be trimmed, and the spending cuts should include the defense budget.
Frank, D-Newton; Paul, R-Texas; Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.; and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have formed a task force to find areas to reduce military spending. It will recommend the cuts to a bipartisan deficit commission appointed by President Barack Obama.
The foursome said they wanted to make it clear they support a strong military, but believe there are areas that can be reduced. Frank said he is concerned that when action is taken to reduce spending to address the deficit it will include only domestic programs.
"The military is way overextended," Frank said, pointing to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with hundreds of bases all over the world.
Western Europe is the place Frank said he would look for savings.
The U.S. is spending billions keeping thousands of troops in Western Europe because of its post-World War II commitment to protect those countries from Soviet expansion, he said.
The Cold War is over, but the troops are still there.
"What are we protecting Western Europe from?" he said.
Frank's comments come at a time when one of his two potential Republican election opponents, Marine Reserve officer Sean Bielat, is emphasizing a strong defense as a key campaign issue.
But, Frank said he is not talking about withholding support from troops at war or weakening the defense of the U.S.
He said it is time Western Europe paid for its own defense, instead of relying on the United States.
He also has at least two conservatives on his side in Paul and Jones.
"There is nothing conservative about spending money we don't have simply because that spending is for the military," Paul said at a recent news conference.
"No enemy can harm us in the way we are harming ourselves, namely bankrupting the nation and destroying our own currency. The former Soviet Union did not implode because it was attacked; it imploded because it was broke.
"We cannot improve our economy if we refuse to examine all major outlays, including so-called defense spending," the Texas Republican said.
Jones said: "We are asking that a closer look be taken at our national security.
"If we do not need the 652 overseas bases that we have currently, then we should take that money and put it back into our own country," he said. "We should take that money and use it to take care of our wounded men and women returning from war."