Last night, Pennsylvania Democratic and Republican U.S. Senate candidates Rep. Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey debated a variety of issues before a national television audience.
At one point during the debate, one of the moderators asked the two candidates about their thoughts on “fat” in the Pentagon budget that needs to be cut out. Sestak responded first, boasting that even though “some parts of [the F-22]” — a program the Obama administration’s Pentagon has struggled to end — are built in his district, he supported ending funding for the unnecessary program. Interestingly, Toomey, while reiterating that he wants to give our troops “all the resources they need to get the job done,” insisted that “there is waste pretty much everywhere in the government, and that includes the Pentagon. Part of the problem is voting on systems the Pentagon doesn’t even want”:
TOOMEY: My dad’s a veteran of the Korean War era. My brother in law served 20 years in the Navy. One of the things that’s very, very important to me is to make sure that when we ask me and women to go into harm’s way, they have all the resources they need to get the job done. I have always voted to provide those resources, and I always will. But the fact is, there is waste pretty much everywhere in the government, and that includes the Pentagon. Part of the problem is Congress voting on systems the Pentagon doesn’t even want. Congress has real serious spending problems, and it manifests itself in many ways. Certainly wasteful defense programs are occasionally in that list.
Toomey’s statement makes him at least the fourth Republican running for Senate who has gone on the record as saying that defense cuts are necessary in order to deal with the budget deficit and tackle waste in government. Last week, Illinois candidate Mark Kirk said we need “across the board” reductions in defense spending. Earlier this month, Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA) told a local news station that reducing the deficit “begins with the Department of Defense.” A few days later, Kentucky candidate Rand Paul criticized Republicans for exempting the military from waste-trimming, telling Gwen Ifill that cutting defense spending “has to be on the table.”
If these Republicans are really serious about reining in the defense budget, 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. They could also reference a recent report by CAP experts Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley that lays out $108 billion in defense cuts in the current 2015 budget forecast.