Forty-one Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle joined Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) in a request to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Supercommittee) to seek out savings and work to end wasteful spending by considering cuts to the Department of Defense. Realizing that significant savings can be found without compromising national security, leaders urged for common sense defense spending reforms as Supercommittee Members form a plan to reduce the deficit in the federal budget.
"One of the main drivers of our deficit is military spending and it must be on the table for the Supercommittee to consider as it seeks to reduce our deficit," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. "We now have an opportunity to bring defense spending in line with our legitimate security needs. Taking serious steps to resolve our fiscal imbalance must include the Pentagon's budget, which should be subject to the same scrutiny as the rest of the discretionary budget."
The Supercommittee has been tasked with finding at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions over a ten-year period by November 23 of this year, allowing for a unique opportunity to bring defense spending in line with legitimate national defense needs while getting the nation on a path to a balanced budget free of deficit.
In the ten years since the 9/11 attacks, spending on defense and security has increased 96% and totaled almost $8 trillion. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $1.36 trillion, and taken the lives of over six thousand men and women while leaving over thirty thousand wounded. In the same time frame, the base budget for the Pentagon has mushroomed to $5.6 trillion. A recent report from the General Accountability Office detailed hundreds of billions of dollars in duplicative programs with little oversight. Significant savings could be realized by auditing the Pentagon and requiring that it produce financial documents like any private sector business.
"Defense spending should absolutely be considered in any plan to reduce to the federal deficit -- and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle agree," said Congresswoman Lee. "While we approach military spending differently, we all agree that it is time to take an honest look at efforts to reform the way that the Department of Defense spends its budget."
October 13, 2011
Dear Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction:
As you begin your work, we respectfully suggest reexamining our defense and security spending priorities as pathways to reducing our deficit and debt. You have been tasked with finding at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions over a ten-year period by November 23 of this year. You have a unique opportunity to bring our defense spending in line with our legitimate national defense needs while getting our nation on the path to a balanced budget free of deficit. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted last year, paraphrasing President Dwight D. Eisenhower, "The United States should spend as much as necessary on national defense, but not one penny more."
In the ten years since the 9/11 attacks, spending on defense and security has increased 96% and totaled almost $8 trillion. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost $1.36 trillion, and taken the lives of over six thousand men and women while leaving over thirty thousand wounded. In the same time frame, the base budget for the Pentagon has mushroomed to $5.6 trillion.
As the 9/11 attacks demonstrated, the kinds of threats we face today are very different than those of previous eras. We live in an age where a few determined individuals with minimal financing, good planning and training, and a willingness to die can inflict billions of dollars in damage and kill thousands in a matter of hours. None of the billions of dollars of Cold War-era weaponry in our arsenal on September 11, 2001 stopped Al-Qaeda.
The continued reliance on Cold War weaponry and conventional tactics two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union makes little strategic or fiscal sense. The June 2010 report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force detailed proposals to reduce our nuclear stockpile substantially, realizing savings of over $100 billion without compromising our national security. The report proposed over $960 billion in defense department savings over the next decade.
Significant savings could also be realized by auditing the Pentagon and requiring that it produce financial documents like any private sector business. Waste, fraud and abuse are endemic at the Pentagon, with the recent report from the General Accountability Office detailing hundreds of billions of dollars in duplicative programs with little oversight. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterized by poor planning, no-bid contracts, and lack of oversight leading to massive cost overruns. In August, the Commission on Wartime Contracting released its final report finding that an estimated $30 and $60 billion has been wasted during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This level of mismanagement is simply unacceptable.
There are multiple reforms proposed that would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. The Bowles-Simpson commission outlined $750 billion in suggested defense cuts in the next decade. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb has proposed $1 trillion in cuts to the Pentagon over the next 10-12 years. These reductions in defense spending would come out of $6.5 trillion in proposed spending between 2011 and 2020.
We are not urging reductions that in any way would cut resources and supplies necessary to protect American troops in the field. Similarly, while we are not opposed to an honest look at efforts at reforming the way that the Department of Defense provides health care and other services to personnel, we are opposed to cuts in services and increased fees for our veterans and military retirees.
Our economic recovery is vital to our strategic interests. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has warned that ongoing debt accumulation is undermining our economic strength and threatening our national security. Taking serious steps to resolve our fiscal imbalance must include the Pentagon's budget, which should be subject to the same scrutiny as the rest of our discretionary budget as you look for savings. As Members on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, we urge you to think openly and act boldly to reduce our deficit and get our nation back on the right track. Bringing our defense spending in line with our legitimate security needs must be considered along with other measures to regain our economic footing.
Yvette D. Clarke
John Conyers, Jr
Jesse Jackson Jr.