Protecting American Power and Keeping the Pentagon on the Table

November 12, 2012

As Congress returns to work during its lame duck session, its top national security and economic priorities should be the same – setting our nation on a balanced path to fiscal health without the meat-axe, across-the-board spending cuts set to occur under sequestration. A balanced deal will protect the American economy – the foundation of American military power – and will keep Pentagon waste and misprioritization on the table to do so. Indeed, national security leaders agree that smartly reshaping Pentagon spending will leave America with the world’s strongest military and a strengthened global position. As Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, recently observed, “the British physicist Ernest Rutherford once declared to his colleagues, ‘We haven’t got the money, so we’ve got to think.’…the good news is that with a shift in focus, truly critical U.S. interests can continue to be protected at a sustainable cost.”

Economic consequences of sequester-level cuts undermine our economy – the foundation of military strength. A report earlier this year by the Bipartisan Policy Center found, “The full defense and non-defense sequester cuts for just next year could—due to their arbitrary and abrupt nature—reduce U.S. gross domestic product by roughly half a percentage point in 2013 and cause more than one million jobs to be lost over the course of two years.” [BPC, 6/7/12]

Economists: cutting domestic programs kills more jobs: According to analysis from the University of Massachusetts, “[M]ilitary spending creates about 11,600 with $1 billion in spending. By a significant amount, this is the fewest number of jobs of any of the alternative uses of funds that we present. Thus, household consumption generates about 14,800 jobs, 28 percent more than military spending. Clean energy generates about 17,100 jobs, (48 percent more than military) and health care generates about 19,600 jobs (69 percent more than the military). Spending on education is the largest source of job creation by a substantial amount, generating about 29,100 jobs overall through $1 billion in spending, which is 151 percent more than the number of jobs that are generated through $1 billion in military spending.” [Pollin & Garrett-Pelter, 10/09]

Economic and social foundations at risk: As Jeff Zients, acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has testified, “[E]ight percent reduction in non-defense discretionary funding would cause severe harm to many of the investments most critical to our country’s long term economic growth.  More than 16,000 teachers and aides responsible for educating thousands of children would lose their jobs. In addition, 700,000 women and children would lose the nutrition assistance they need to remain healthy. 100,000 kids would lose places in Head Start, which helps them begin school ready to learn. The National Institutes of Health would have to halt or curtail vital science, such as research on cancer and childhood diseases.” [Jeff Zients, 8/1/12]

Defense leaders have called for Pentagon spending to remain on the table:  As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said, “there should be consensus on one thing: that the leaders of both the legislative and executive branches of government have a duty to protect both our national and fiscal security…I fundamentally do not believe that we have to choose between fiscal discipline and national security. I believe we can maintain the strongest military in the world and be part of a comprehensive solution to deficit reduction.” [Leon Panetta via DoD, 2/28/12]

Wise reshaping of our military will ensure the United States will remain the dominant military power – and help restore economic dominance.

The dominant position in the world: As Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings explains, “As   of today, the United States leads a global alliance system of more than 60 partner states that collectively account for almost 80 percent of global GDP and more than 80 percent of total global military spending between them.” [Michael O’Hanlon, 12/10]

Even sequester-sized cuts leave America with 38 percent of global defense  expenditures: As Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution explains, “At the height of the   Iraq war, US spending was above half of all the world’s military spending, but is now down to slightly above 40% of all military spending. Sequestration would take it down by about 2% more of the pie, roughly 38% of all global military spending, excluding any likely contingency or war spending.” [Peter Singer, 9/23/12]

Hundreds of billions over the next decade can be saved by Pentagon efficiency reforms alone, without affecting combat power: A recent report by the Lexington Institute explains, “There are a host of hidden cost drivers that act as a significant tax on     the effective utilization of defense resources while not providing clear benefits. These include: excessive regulation and specifications, barriers to full and fair competition, poor cost accounting and inadequate cost analyses, outdated supply chain management techniques and the uneconomical funding for programs…Taken together, the savings [of addressing these problems] could be between $45 and $95 billion a year.” [Daniel Goure, 6/18/12]

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