Our guest bloggers are Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Larry Korb and CAP national security intern Sam Klug.
Cost overruns caused by management failures on Department of Defense contracts in the last two years exceeded the entire annual budget of the State Department. And not by a little bit, either — the cost overruns came to $70 billion, while the U.S. spends only $47 billion on the State Department every year. Facts like this one indicate the need to rethink the way we budget for national security issues.
As talks on deficit reduction heat up, lawmakers have begun to suggest — finally — that cuts to the Pentagon budget must be “on the table.” Yet just weeks ago, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a massive $682.5 billion budget for the Defense Department. The Center for American Progress has for years supported and contributed to the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget, which last week released its 2012 proposal to rebalance national security spending. The Unified Security Budget (USB) offers a comprehensive look at our national security needs and the military and non-military tools we use to address them, identifying areas where unnecessary military spending (like those cost overruns we mentioned earlier) could REALLY be cut — as opposed to just reducing current estimates of spending growth.
Looking at security holistically, the Task Force finds that the FY2012 budget the House approved allocates 87 percent of security money for “offense” (military forces), only 7 percent for “defense” (homeland security), and only 6 percent for “prevention” (all non-military tools, such as diplomacy, foreign aid, and non-proliferation). The Task Force’s main goal is to place these figures more in balance. In order to do so, it identifies $77.1 billion in Pentagon savings, and it recommends reinvesting $28.1 billion of those savings in non-military, security-related accounts. Of the remainder of the savings, the Task Force suggests allocating half to deficit reduction and half to domestic job creation. While members of Congress only seem to want to discuss the budget, the Task Force understands that the United States faces not only a budget deficit, but an investment deficit, a diplomacy deficit, and a development deficit as well.
Sustainability is a major focus of the USB. In its review of America’s roles and missions abroad, the Task Force promotes “an effective and sustainable balance among available instruments of power,” arguing that the recent approach to security, through boots-on-the-ground-heavy nation-building and counterinsurgency, has cost too much in blood and treasure to be continued for much longer. This recommendation sounds surprisingly similar to former Secretary of Defense (and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient) Robert Gates’ comment that “any future defense secretary who advises the President to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
Sustainability in our budget, our economy, and, importantly, our environment rank high among the USB’s goals as well. Of the $28.1 billion it recommends reinvesting within our national security apparatus, by far the largest share — $22.4 billion — is designated for alternative energy. In addition to helping DOD combat the security threat of climate change, this money “will do the double duty of paying dividends in job creation.”
Almost nothing illustrates the imbalance in our national priorities better than the way we allocate money for national security. Adopting a unified security budget would represent a step toward the recognition that not every problem this country faces requires a deployment of military power — and that we can be safer and more prosperous if we budget accordingly.