From a roundtable discussion at the National Guard Tire Rebuild plant -- where the Guard saves $27 million a year for the U.S. military -- U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) discussed even more ways to trim fat from military spending while strengthening the nation's defense.
"As a former Governor, I truly recognize the importance of the National Guard and its ability to perform multiple roles, both overseas and at home," Senator Manchin said. "Not only can the National Guard perform a wide variety of roles in national defense, homeland security and disaster relief, but the National Guard is truly one of the most efficient and effective organizations in our government. With the Guard, we can trim the fat without cutting muscle and keep the strongest fighting force the world has ever seen."
Participants in the roundtable discussion included West Virginia National Guard Adjutant General James A. Hoyer and Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
"One of the critical things that we do in the West Virginia National Guard is identify gaps in our Homeland Defense and provide unique solutions to them," said Major General James A. Hoyer, West Virginia Adjutant General. "Our challenge is to provide Senator Manchin and our elected officials opportunities to reduce the national debt without reducing our defense capability and we have shown that we can do that with some of our initiatives."
In addition, Senator Manchin highlighted his measure to rein in excessive taxpayer spending on contractors' salaries.
"Very few people know this, but right now, we can pay contractors up to $763,000 a year with taxpayer money," Senator Manchin said. "That's nearly double the President's salary, and about four times as much as we pay the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State. If we can get quality people like Leon Panetta and Hilary Clinton to serve for less than $200,000, I know we can bring those contractor salaries down. At the same time, we're contemplating eliminating jobs for thousands of uniformed men and women. That's just wrong. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I offered an amendment to our annual defense bill that would cap contractors' pay."
Said Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Bowen: "It was a pleasure to visit with the West Virginia National Guard and to learn about their efficiencies to support the U.S. military overseas."
Background -- National Guard savings:
The average Air National Guard unit, operating under today's deployment constraints, only costs 53 percent of a comparable active duty Air Force major command.
In 2010, the entire Army National Guard cost less than 11 percent of the total Army budget.
The National Guard maintains nearly 40 percent of the operating force of the total Army while only costing a fraction of their budget.
The Air National Guard costs $2.25 billion less annually than a similarly sized active duty Air Force command. That is a daily savings of $6.2 million.
The National Guard can carry out both domestic and overseas missions with only 5 percent of the total base budget of the Defense Department.
Background -- contractor salaries:
Right now, there are more than 113,000 contractors in Afghanistan. Of that number, there are nearly 20,000 private security contractors performing many of the same jobs as American troops. In Iraq, the best estimates indicate that are between 20,000 and 30,000 contractors.
At the same time, there are 90,000 American troops in Afghanistan -- so there are now more contractors there than American troops.
Contractors have been part of previous wars, but never at these ratios. In the Revolutionary War, there were six contractors for every military personnel. In World War I, it was 1 to 24. In World War II, it was 1 to 7. In Vietnam, it was 1 to 5.
Background -- Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Conservative estimates indicate that U.S. taxpayers have been losing $12 million a day for 10 years on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Commission on Wartime Contracting estimates that the United States has lost somewhere between $31 and $60 billion to waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States has spent nearly $1.4 trillion in the two conflicts.