Last month, Congressman Barney Frank called for a 25 percent cut in the defense budget–approximately $150 billion in annual spending–saying, “We don’t need all these fancy new weapons. I think there needs to be additional review.”
Predictably, the Republican backlash was swift. House Minority Leader John Boehner called Frank “incredibly irresponsible.” House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee ranking member John McHugh (R-NY) labeled the proposed reduction “unconscionable.” Democrats–especially those on the House Armed Services Committee –didn’t exactly embrace Frank’s target, either.
But Congressman Frank isn’t backing down. In an e-mail to me yesterday he wrote, “Much of the reduction will come from ending the war in Iraq and from cutting unneeded weapons systems. I believe that it’s appropriate to reduce defense spending, and this is a goal I wanted to set. I don’t have specific details at this point, but I will be working with my colleagues to identify weapons systems that we can reduce, and I also want to look at drawing down the number of our overseas bases.”
Even a senior Pentagon advisory group–the Defense Business Board –recently concluded that the current budget is “not sustainable.” And according to the Boston Globe, “Pentagon insiders and defense budget specialists say the Pentagon has been on a largely unchecked spending spree since 2001 that will prove politically difficult to curtail but nevertheless must be reined in.”
The current budget allots over $500 billion to defense, and anadditional $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As arecent editorial in the New York Times tells us, the budget is “nearly equal to all ofthe rest of the world’s defense budgets combined.” It represents 57percent of the total discretionary budget.
In Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2009, research fellow Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies, and former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, outline not only cuts thatneed to be made to implement a sane defense budget, but also the shiftin priorities required to confront the real security challenges of the21st century. The Unified Security Budget (USB) pulls “together in oneplace US spending on all of its security tools: tools of offense (military forces), defense (homeland security) and prevention (non-military international engagement.) This tool would make it easier for Congress to consider overall security spending priorities and the best allocation of them.”