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 demand cuts to the bloated defense budget. This coalition was given further momentum in late November, when 23 top conservative leaders, including the presidents of Americans for Tax Reform and Americans For Prosperity, wrote an open letter demanding that defense cuts be part of any comprehensive deficit reduction effort.
Perhaps in an effort to get ahead of this growing movement, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently announced $78 billion in cuts to the Pentagon’s budget over five years that would slow down the growth of the overall budget but fail to truly reduce its size. On Monday, during an appearance on Fox Business Network’s Bulls & Bears, Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) endorsed Gates’s savings efforts and championed taking “huge steps” that go beyond Gates’s recommendations and truly cut the defense budget. “This is just the beginning,” he said. “We need to look at some more, and look at what is our role, what is our role going to be going forward with the military to keep ourselves safe but know we don’t have unlimited resources.” He concluded, “The Defense Department should not be a jobs program”:
CAMPBELL: We have to get this debt out of control and you can’t go and say we’re going to go and take waste out of HHS or some other program, entitlements, whatever, without saying, there’s waste in defense too. We can do the job in national defense and save some money as well. I don’t think the cuts the Pentagon has put on the table are jeapordizing our national defense. And if you look it’s less than 2.5 percent over the next 5 years.
MCSHANE: This is to my point, we need huge reductions. […] Cutting out waste is only a small step in the right direction, we need to take huge steps. How are we going to do that?
CAMPBELL: You’re right. Huge steps in everything. In entitlements and the non-defense budget, but in defense as well. And obviously the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be wrapping up here. Iraq should be wrapping up soon, and Afghanistan, in my opinion, that’s a whole separate issue but there’s a lot of money there are as well. And we should look not only in waste in some of these things and at the large civilian non-uniform employment of the defense department a lot of those things. But you’re right, this is just the beginning. We need to look at some more, and look at what is our role, what is our role going to be going forward with the military to keep ourselves safe but know we don’t have unlimited resources. […] The Defense Department should not be a jobs program!
If Campbell and other lawmakers are looking for ways to rein in the defense budget, they can reference 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 and unnecessary programs 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 Center for American Progress experts Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley that lays out $108 billion in defense cuts in the current 2015 budget forecast.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has proposed slashing defense procurement by 15 percent in his deficit reduction proposal.