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House Progressives Pitch Military Cuts To Avert Looming Sequester

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"House Progressives Pitch Military Cuts To Avert Looming Sequester"

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Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus today outlined what they see as an alternative to the looming $1 trillion in mandatory budget cuts scheduled to take effect Mar. 1, mixing revenue and cuts to reduce the deficit.

Immediately after President Obama’s call to Congress for a temporary reprieve from the cuts, the Progressive Caucus presented its plan to offset the so-called sequestration cuts for good. The executive summary says the group proposes to raise over $960 billion in revenue through closing tax loopholes and ending tax breaks. The cuts that the Caucus members listed for the chopping block all come from the Pentagon, rather than the even split between military and domestic programs currently set to take place.

In total, the Pentagon budget reduction suggested by Caucus co-chairs Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) come to $278 billion, far less than the pending $500 billion over ten years. Among the reforms the Progressive Caucus eyes are reducing spending on military bands — whose members currently total more than active Foreign Service Officers — by $2 billion, reducing troop levels by four percent via attrition, and moving 10,000 forces from Europe to the U.S.

Among the proposals more likely to stir heated opposition in Congress are calls for reductions in procurement and ending of costly programs don’t advance U.S. missions:

  • Limiting the Purchase of Virginia-class Nuclear Subs to one per year ($22 billion) – Sec. 631
    Significantly and rapidly increasing our fleet of Virginia Class submarines will do little to improve U.S. security. The U.S. Navy currently possesses more firepower than the next 20 navies in the world combined, the majority of which are allies. [...]
  • Replacing F-35s with F-18s ($23 billion) – Sec. 633
    Replaces the Navy’s buy of 237 F-35Cs with 240 F/A-18E/Fs and replaces half of the Marine Corps’ F-35B buy with F/A-18 variants. The F-35 program has failed in its purpose to save U.S. taxpayers money, and has received widespread criticism. The United States currently has 3,029 fourth-generation tactical aircraft—three times more than our nearest competitor—and is the only nation fielding a fifth-generation fighter. [...]
  • End Production of the V-22 Osprey ($9 billion) – Sec. 634
    Boeing’s V-22 Osprey aircraft has been referred to as “dangerous pork with wings,” and for good reason. A 2009 GAO report found that the aircraft was not suited to fly in extreme heat, excessive sand or under enemy fire – making it effectively useless for combat given the countries where America has fought wars recently. Sadly, the V-22 has taken the lives of 36 individuals, including 31 service members.[...]

These proposals, for all the controversy they’ll raise, mark out a distinct plan to avert the sequester, which is more than can be said for Congressional Republicans. Such proponents of defense spending as Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have hit President Obama for failing to “lead a bipartisan effort to avert this looming national security disaster,” yet have presented no plan of their own. Now, despitDespite the heated campaign attacks lobbed against Obama for not doing enough to prevent the cuts to Pentagon spending, a growing number of Republicans have embraced the sequester. The across the board cuts have been called “disastrous” both by Congressional military spending hawks like Rep. Buck McKeon and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus isn’t alone in proposing smarter military spending cuts. CAP’s Larry Korb and Max Hoffman recently called for an alteration to the sequester, keeping the $500 billion target amount while focusing the object of the cuts. “Intelligent reductions would force the Pentagon’s leaders to make the hard choices they avoided as the non-war, or baseline, defense budget doubled after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001,” Korb and Hoffman said. Michelle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, today also outlined her own model for reducing Pentagon spending over the next decade.

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