REPORT: Bipartisan Support For Meaningful Defense Spending Reductions

While the mention of defense spending cuts puts hawks on a war footing to justify the staggering Pentagon budget, a new report from the Center for American Progress’ Lawrence J. Korb, Sam Klug, and Alex Rothman examines bipartisan proposals for defense spending cuts. Their report concludes that any cuts in military spending, in all likelihood, will be moderate, at best, but that wide bipartisan support exists for returning spending to fiscally responsible levels.

First, it’s important to recognize that the debt ceiling deal puts caps on security spending — limiting the security budget to $684 billion in 2012 and $686 billion in 2013 — which includes funding for the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, State Department, and intelligence agencies. The authors observe:

Congress could potentially keep security spending within the caps without touching DOD spending at all, instead slashing the budgets of the other, already underfunded “security” agencies.

Doing so would continue to overstate the proper role for the military within our foreign policy. After an unprecedented streak of 13 consecutive years of rising defense budgets, the United States is now spending more on defense than at any time since World War II and almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

Watch CAP Senior Fellow Lawrence J. Korb discuss defense spending and the debt ceiling deal:

The report highlights four bipartisan plans (see chart) for defense spending reductions from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, the Project on Government Oversight/Taxpayers for Common Sense, and the Center for American Progress.

All four plans would bring significant savings, ranging from Coburn’s proposed plan, which would save more than $1 trillion over 10 years, to the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission proposal with $100.1 billion in estimated savings by 2015. But all four plans agreed on reducing F-35 and V-22 Osprey procurement, reforming the DoD’s healthcare plan, and cutting European and Asian troop levels.

Three out of four plans agreed on reducing the carrier fleet; implementing former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s strategy for cutting costs and boosting efficiency; reducing the use of contractors; and reducing the nuclear arsenal.