Dr. Gordon Adams, Matthew Leatherman, and Hans-Inge Langø
It is time to discipline the defense budget, along with the rest of the federal budget. Americans understand the logic of fiscal discipline. Spending less requires doing less. Doing less requires setting priorities. Setting priorities means having clear options and a strategy for managing risk.
Over the past decade, U.S. defense spending has grown to roughly $700 billion a year, higher in real dollars than any year since WWII and equal as a percentage of the federal budget to that taken by Social Security, or income-based entitlements, or domestic discretionary spending. Today we face pressing problems of jobs and economic recovery, along with unprecedented debts and deficits. ADM Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has rightly noted that today the “single-biggest threat to our national security is our national debt.”
The choices to discipline defense spending should be focused, not random. Today marks the release of the Stimson Center’s options for such a focus, developed by its project on budgeting for foreign affairs and defense. They were prepared as an illustrative way of reaching the defense spending freeze proposed in Restoring America’s Future, the final report of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Rivlin-Domenici Debt Reduction Task Force. The Rivlin-Domenici Task Force proposes freezing national defense spending at its FY2011 nominal level for five years, followed by growth at the same rate as the overall economy. Using the Bipartisan Policy Center’s budget baseline (which incorporates an assumption that U.S. forces deployed in combat will decline to 30,000 personnel by 2013) the proposed freeze saves $1.1 trillion in defense spending from FY2012 – 2020. It would also leave in place a US military that remains globally superior in capabilities and technology, able to deploy and operate around the world.
Read the report by clicking here (PDF, 34.2kb)