As ThinkProgress and The Progress Report have documented, there is a growing coalition of both Tea Party-backed conservatives and stalwart progressives who are coming together to call for reining in the bloated defense budget.
On Saturday, during an interview with Fox News, former Arkansas Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joined this coalition by advocating for sensible cuts to the defense budget where they are warranted. When asked by host Dave Briggs about “some of the defense cuts” proposed in a recently-released report from President Obama’s deficit reduction commission, Huckabee responded by saying, “we’re still designing a lot of military hardware for a war that we don’t plan to fight.” He went on to say that our military “priorities don’t have to be bloated with a lot of stuff that really is not about keeping us safe and protecting and caring for veterans. So yes, there are areas of the defense budget that need to be looked at honestly”:
DAVE BRIGGS: I was surprised, though, that the right wasn’t as outspoken about some of the defense cuts that we need to make. A hundred billion dollars slashed out of that beast of a defense budget. It’s unpatriotic to come out and talk about the defense budget, but the Pentagon is accepting airplanes that they don’t even need.
HUCKABEE: They don’t need and that they don’t want. And what happens is, we’re still designing a lot of military hardware for a war that we don’t plan to fight. And, Robert Gates the Defense Department secretary, who I think has done an excellent job, and he has been one of those willing to grind sacred cows into hamburger and serve it rare, has really helped to identify ways in which we can keep ourselves strong, not cutting the military strength and not hurting veterans. There are two things Americans don’t want to do, number one, get weak and, number two, hurt the veterans who kept us free. But those priorities don’t have to be bloated with a lot of stuff that really is not about keeping us safe and protecting and caring for veterans. So yes, there are areas of the defense budget that need to be looked at honestly.
If Huckabee is really serious about reining in the defense budget, he can look to the Sustainable Defense Task Force (SDTF) report released earlier this year. The SDTF — which was chaired by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and staffed by 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. He could also reference a recent report by Center for American Progress experts Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley that lays out $108 billion in defense cuts in the current 2015 budget forecast.
By admitting that the Department of Defense is “bloated” and that the defense budget needs to be “looked at honestly,” Huckabee is joining a wide-ranging Tea Party-progressive coalition that includes major conservatives like Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Bob Corker (R-TN), along with proud progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Jeff Merkely (D-OR).
However, this coalition will face resistance from establishment Republicans. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), speaking at today’s Foreign Policy Initiative conference “Restoring America’s Leadership of a Democratic World,” appeared to address this growing coalition. “Rand Paul, he’s already talked about withdrawals, cuts in defense,” said McCain. “I worry a lot about rise of protectionism and isolationism in the Republican Party.”