Recently, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) — who had a 96 percent rating from the American Conservative Union in 2009 — sat down with Fox 5 Atlanta to talk about the upcoming election and a variety of policy issues, including his view that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended.
At one point, Fox 5’s Paul Yates asked the senator about legislation he’s pushing that would “dramatically reduce the federal budget deficit in coming years.” Yates asked Isakson which “government programs would have to be cut to make that proposal work.” Isakson responded that “there’s not a government program that shouldn’t be under scrutiny. And that begins with the Department of Defense and goes all the way through:”
YATES: You’re pushing legislation that would dramatically reduce the federal budget deficit in coming years. Which government programs would have to be cut to make that proposal work?
ISAKSON: Well first of all there’s not a government program that shouldn’t be under scrutiny. And that begins with the Department of Defense and goes all the way through. We need to be asking the American government to do what the American people have been forced do, which is sit around the kitchen table, prioritize their expenses based on income, and balance their budget.
Isakson’s words are laudable. After all, the United States currently spends more money on defense than the rest of the world combined, and defense spending composes a majority of non-discretionary spending. It would be difficult to imagine reining in the federal budget deficit without looking first at one of its largest sources.
Yet it should be noted that Isakson’s actions up to this point have not matched this rhetoric. When the Pentagon requested to Congress to phase out the F-22 program — meaning even the Department of Defense didn’t want to build additional fighters — Isakson fought the request. The senator defended the unneeded aircraft on the floor of the U.S. Senate and all over the media.
Unfortunately, many in Isakson’s party have failed to also grasp the need to rein in defense spending. In their much-touted “Pledge To America,” Republicans say they plan to end the nation’s “crushing debt.” Yet they explicitly exempt the Department of Defense from any spending cuts, and even promise to “fully fund missle defense” — conservatives’ long-sought pipe dream program that would use domestic missiles to intercept incoming ones, which has never proven workable.
But if Isakson or any of his congressional colleagues are really serious about including the Pentagon’s budget in a deficit-reduction effort, they can look to The Sustainable Defense Task (SDTF) report released earlier this year. Assembled by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and consisting of the nation’s leading defense and budget experts, the SDTF identified nearly $1 trillion in waste that can be cut from the defense budget over the next ten years simply by eliminating outdated Cold War-era programs.
Slappy writes: “Wow, let’s see if he walks the walk.”