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 earlier this month, when the co-chairs of President Obama’s Deficit Reduction Commission released a report that calls for $100 billion in defense cuts.
Now, 23 major conservative leaders have sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) asking them to “institute principled spending reform” that includes “proposing cuts” to the Pentagon budget. The conservative leaders, which include Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips, and FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe, note that “Department of Defense spending, in particular, has been provided protected status that has isolated it from serious scrutiny and allowed the Pentagon to waste billions in taxpayer money.”
The conservatives write that ignoring “the burden military spending places on the taxpayers” promotes an “ethos” of “reckless spending.” They conclude that “any such Department of Defense favoritism would signal that the new Congress is not serious about fiscal responsibility and not ready to lead.” They end their letter by writing, “We call on you to lead the crusade for a new era of responsibility — one that knows no sacred cows”:
We write to urge you to institute principled spending reform that rejects the notion that spending cuts can be avoided in certain parts of the federal budget. Department of Defense spending, in particular, has been provided protected status that has isolated it from serious scrutiny and allowed the Pentagon to waste billions in taxpayer money. A new Congress, with a clear mandate to cut spending and the size of government, should signal its fiscal resolve by proposing cuts for all federal spending.Ignoring the burden military spending places on the taxpayers promotes the same reckless spending ethos that led to failed “stimulus” policies, government bailouts and a prolonged economic recession. Leadership on spending requires commitment that aims to permanently change the bias toward profligacy, not simply stem the tide in the short-term. True fiscal stewards cannot eschew real spending reform by protecting pet projects in the federal budget.
Any such Department of Defense favoritism would signal that the new Congress is not serious about fiscal responsibility and not ready to lead. As we enter a new Congress and search for ways to significantly decrease the size of government, we call on you to lead the crusade for a new era of responsibility — one that knows no sacred cows.
Conservative leaders are right to call for reining in defense spending to battle the deficit. The defense budget for FY2010 is a whopping $533.8 billion, larger than the 2008 GDP of 116 countries. And the Department of Defense has been a major factor in the growth of the budget deficit, accounting for 65 percent of the discretionary spending increase since 2001.
While numerous Republican legislators have endorsed cutting defense spending as one way to reduce the budget deficit, it is unclear if the GOP leadership will endorse such a plan. Unfortunately, in the GOP’s much-touted “Pledge For America,” Republican leaders explicitly exempted defense-related spending from waste-trimming. Yet many analysts do believe that the tea party-progressive coalition will successfully start to rein in defense spending. Yesterday, Morgan Keegan analyst Brian Ruttenbur “said he expects defense spending to slow down dramatically” in the near future, dropping “revenue expectations for Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., L-3 Communications, Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics.”
During an appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” today, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) was asked if he was “willing to make cuts to Defense spending.” Cantor replied by saying that “everything should be on the table. I don’t think we should leave any stone unturned while we’re trying to do what most have in this country have done, which is tighten the belt, which is to try and live within our means.”