In the disgusting spectacle of the talks between President Obama and the Republicans on cutting spending, there’s one bright spot: the Department of Defense is facing serious cuts.
If one were serious about reducing the deficit without either slashing entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security or raising taxes one penny, here’s a simple solution: cut Pentagon spending by one-third, and voilà! There’s $2 trillion in deficit reduction right there. (By contrast, the protracted and ugly talks between the White House and Congress are projected to reduce the deficit by somewhere between $2.5 trillion and $4 trillion, depending on whose plan you look at.)
Of course, no one is seriously considering slashing the DOD budget by a third. But serious cuts are likely, as much as $900 billion, or about 15 percent of the projected $6 trillion in military spending over the next decade. And it’s got hawks and neoconservatives up in arms.
Earlier this year, in two pieces for The Nation, I wrote about a coalition of conservatives and tax hawks, including Grover Norquist, who’ve come out for cuts up to $1 trillion in defense, and about the prospect for serious cuts in defense spending across the board. In January, then–Secretary of Defense Gates had suggested trifling cuts of $78 billion, and in April President Obama upped the ante, calling for cuts of $400 billion. Now, it appears that Obama is backing cuts as much as $886 billion, and that might just be an opening bid. In any case, big cuts seem inevitable.
In a piece yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the generals and DOD officials are preparing for the worst:
The Pentagon is bracing for spending cuts far deeper than what it was expecting just a few weeks ago, including the possible elimination of an aircraft carrier group and other weapons programs.… Defense officials have been warning for months that the Pentagon must prepare for a new era of austerity after a long period of growth that has swelled military spending to its highest level, adjusted for inflation, since World War II.
And the Post noted that Senator Tom Coburn, a key member of the Senate’s Gang of Six, has openly called for $1 trillion in reduced military outlays.