In their much-touted “Pledge To America,” Republicans last month said they plan to end the nation’s “crushing debt.” Yet they explicitly exempt the Department of Defense from any spending cuts, and even promise to “fully fund missle defense” — conservatives’ long-sought pipe dream program that would use domestic missiles to intercept incoming ones, which has never proven workable. In a recent interview with a local news station, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said that reining in the deficit “begins with the Department of Defense,” a laudable sentiment that unfortunately has not yet been backed up by the senator’s actions.
Now, another major Republican is rebuking the Pledge’s call for declaring the defense budget off-limits from waste trimming. Kentucky GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Rand Paul was leaving an event at a local Chamber of Commerce in Kentucky yesterday when PBS reporter Gwen Ifill approached him and asked him about his views on various issues. At one point, Paul began to explain that while he’s running as Republican, he sees himself as being independent of the party, and complained that “often we get too distracted by getting too partisan.” As an example, he explained that to tackle the budget deficit, there has to be a “compromise” where Congress looks “at the whole budget.” He chided Republicans for “always” excluding the military from cuts and saying “we’re not gonna look at the military.” He concluded, “Everything has to be on the table. We have to do this intelligently”:
PAUL: I think the issues are more important than the party. I think often we get too distracted by getting too partisan. I don’t see people who are Democrats as always being wrong or Republicans as always being wrong. I think there has to be a compromise on the budget. In order to address the deficit the only compromise that I think we can have is you have to look at the whole budget. We’ve always excluded the military and said we’re not gonna look at the military. Or the Democrats exclude the social and domestic welfare spending. Everything has to be on the table. We have to do this intelligently.
If Paul is really serious about including the Pentagon’s budget in a deficit-reduction effort, they can look to The Sustainable Defense Task (SDTF) report released earlier this year. Assembled by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and consisting of the nation’s leading defense and budget experts, the SDTF identified nearly $1 trillion in waste that can be cut from the defense budget over the next ten years simply by eliminating outdated Cold War-era programs. He could also reference a recent report by CAP experts Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley that lays out $108 billion in defense cuts in the current 2015 budget forecast.