Saying it is "fantasy" to suggest a balanced U.S. budget can be achieved without deep reductions in military spending, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is proposing more than $300 billion in cuts in defense and defense-related expenditures.
Johnson outlined a path toward implementing those defense reductions in a national conference call with bloggers on Tuesday, August 30.
Johnson said, "Given that we are borrowing or printing 43 cents of every dollar the government spends, balancing the budget means we have to begin with the premise that all spending has to be reduced by 43%. And that means looking at everything government does, including the huge portion of the budget we call defense spending.
"Nearly half of all the money spent world-wide for military purposes is spent by the U.S., and much of the remainder is spent by our allies and strategic partners -- not our adversaries. With an unsustainable national debt and an economy on the ropes, we neither can nor should be picking up half the world's defense tab.
"The first and most important question, of course, is whether we can protect America from legitimate threats while reducing "defense' spending by more than $300 billion? The answer is: Absolutely. We do so by getting out of wars we should not be in, stopping the nation-building we are asking our military to do, and by prudently scaling our procurement, forces and the overall defense budget to match what we legitimately need to protect ourselves."
"As with the entire federal government, reducing what we spend requires reducing what we do, and there is ample room to restrain what we do in the name of defense and, in the process, make ourselves safer."
"Absolutely, we must protect ourselves from terrorists who would do us harm. But our approach is occupying and trying to reshape entire nations from which those terrorists, like Al Qaeda, may operate. Guess what? First, our efforts to reshape those nations have not worked, and second, groups like Al Qaeda simply move. They are not nation-based armies with defined loyalties or boundaries. We can "conquer' Iraq or Afghanistan or topple Qaddafi at costs of billions per day, but does that defeat Al Qaeda? Obviously not, which begs the question, why are we sending the Army and the Marines on manhunts?
"Likewise, why do we need tens of thousands of active duty personnel in Europe, which is in reality a massive transfer of American dollars to Europe with little enhancement to our security?"
"If we align our approaches with today's realities and the true nature of the threats we face, we can reduce our active Marine Corps and Army troop force by as much as 1/3, and still maintain the strength we need to win conventional conflicts and participate in reasonable multi-lateral missions with our allies and strategic partners. Combined with the accompanying savings in procurement, civilian contractors, and infrastructure, these reductions in forces will save at least $30-40 billion per year.
"Likewise, over the next 10 years, we can cut defense costs by $40 billion by reducing the number of aircraft carrier battle groups we currently maintain, and an additional $30 billion by simply maintaining our current level of other warships, rather than procuring additional ones as currently programmed. Again, doing so will still leave us with more than ample naval firepower and flexibility to deal with real threats.
"Additional major cost savings can be achieved by aligning our nuclear arsenal with reality, with no loss of security. We can cut our nuclear weapons delivery platforms by half, and still maintain the capability to reach every corner of the earth with nuclear warheads. It defies common sense to imagine that any aggressor, whether it be Iran, North Korea or whomever, will somehow be more tempted to attack us because we only have 500 or so nuclear warheads deployed at any given time, deliverable by missile, submarine or aircraft. Such a re-sizing of our nuclear capability can save as much as $6-8 billion per year.
"And then, of course, there are the wars we don't need to fight. Over the past several years, we have spent as much as $200 billion per year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even with planned troop withdrawals, the cost of these wars next year will exceed $100 billion. Ending these wars now and bringing our troops home will allow dramatic reductions in spending in the near term.
"These major steps, combined with other common-sense reductions in procurement, intelligence, military construction, research and development, and other areas will produce what many Republicans and Democrats alike would have you believe is unthinkable: a reduction in annual U.S. defense spending of more than $300 billion -- now.
"If, as we should, we stop asking our military to build nations, direct the outcomes of civil wars, manage the price of oil and carry out the whole menu of interventions we engage in, we can have a defense second to none that keeps us safe and maintains our position of military supremacy -- at a price we can actually afford.
"When all is said and done, there is no greater threat to our national security than continuing to borrow or print 43 cents of every dollar the government spends. As long as we continue to feed an $800 billion per year military habit, we are not making ourselves safer."