Last night, Oregon’s U.S. Senate candidates Sen. Ron Wyden (D) and Republican Jim Huffman debated a variety of issues. Highlights from the debate include Huffman’s advocacy for extending all the Bush tax cuts and Wyden arguing in favor of ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas.
At one point during the debate, the moderators asked the nominees about their stance on funding the National Guard and other defense programs. Both agreed that giving adequate funding to the National Guard was important to the state of Oregon. Interestingly, Huffman criticized members of Congress for “constantly lobbying to keep bases open or military installations open or [military] funding in their states just because it’s funding in their state.” He added that he has “no doubt there’s a vast amount of money wasted in defense” and advocated for taking “a very sharp pencil to looking at the defense budget,” because he believes “Dwight Eisenhower was right when he said there was a military industrial complex, and this continues to be a problem we have to deal with”:
HUFFMAN: I, too would be a strong supporter of the National Guard, I think it’s a very critical part of the community and of the state. As for funding I think it has to be part of a larger examination of military funding in this country. I think it’s a mistake as we found way back we found before the base closure act to have members of Congress constantly lobbying to keep bases open or military installations open or funding in their states just because its funding in their state, it needs to be part of a comprehensive national review of how we spend money in defense. I have no doubt there’s a vast amount of money wasted in defense, but at the same time I think it’s the most important thing the federal government does, and it has to be something it does all over the country. So I would be a very strong supporter of the National Guard but I’d also take a very sharp pencil to looking at the defense budget, because I think Dwight Eisenhower was right when he said there was a military industrial complex, and this continues to be a problem we have to deal with.
Huffman’s statement makes him at least the fifth 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. Earlier this week, Pennsylvania candidate Pat Toomey criticized Congress for voting for “programs the Pentagon doesn’t even want.” 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 PBS’s Gwen Ifill that cutting defense spending “has to be on the table.” All of these candidates are stating positions in direct opposition to the GOP’s much-touted “Pledge To America,” which explicitly exempts the Department of Defense from waste-cutting.
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. The SDTF — which comprises Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and some of the nation’s leading defense and budget experts — 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.