Study from free-market groups shows how – and why – conservatives can reform Pentagon budget
The study, which contained almost $1.9 trillion of various recommendations for Pentagon budget savings over coming years, is also designed to help show politically conservative leaders how they can balance defense and fiscal policy in a thoughtful way.
“Keeping the nation safe from its enemies is the most important task of the federal government, one that means planning for economic as well as military strength,” said the study’s authors, NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp and R Street Senior Fellow and Outreach Director Andrew Moylan. “Although in past decades, fiscal conservatives have not been silent in the discussion over Pentagon spending, we must now find a stronger voice on behalf of a defense posture that reflects the limited-government values of our movement.”
Aside from building the case for conservatives to become more active in crafting a national security policy that is accountable to taxpayers, the authors outline nearly $1.9 trillion in recommendations (some up to 10 years of savings) from 100 specific policy changes – far more than needed to meet budgetary “sequestration” goals. However, they do not suggest that enactment of the entire list from beginning to end is desirable or feasible; many proposals would overlap or conflict with each other.
Rather, Moylan and Sepp note, the intent is to “demonstrate the full range of options Congress has to confront wasteful or inefficient spending in the defense budget while still being mindful of the overall impact on national security interests.”
The report’s items, culled from sources inside and outside government, are broken down into three sections:
- Wasteful, unnecessary, or low-priority weapons systems, such as the SM-3 Block II-B missile (eliminated in favor of less expensive options); the F-35 fighter (replaced with other jets); refurbishment of M-1 tanks (delayed),;and the Virginia class submarine (reduced in procurement). 50 recommendations for $385.8 billion in savings.
- Personnel, compensation, and benefit reforms ranging from less spending on military bands to capping the troop presence in Europe; from health care benefit restructuring to adjusting the “high-three” retirement formula. 20 recommendations for $618.6 billion in savings.
- Overhauling deficient processes and management structures, including a reduction in DoD printing costs; consolidation of foreign language contracts; combining support services at joint bases; and a full audit of Pentagon finances. 30 recommendations for $878.5 billion in savings.
Beyond the 100 specific proposals they mention, Sepp and Moylan explored other alternatives with the prospect for savings that can be quantified in a more general sense. These varied from a new round of base closures to better consulting-contract management.
In addition to savings recommendations, the study briefly recounted the history of conservative involvement in military spending restraint, from defense appropriations limitation amendments in the 1970s to base closure legislation in the 1980s to a successful bipartisan House vote last year that restricted growth in the Pentagon budget.
Finally, the report provides seven suggestions to help conservatives “move beyond occasional success and become an ongoing influence” in Pentagon budgeting decisions. One suggestion: more coalition efforts, which have already seen many conservative groups team up with each other (and liberal organizations) to press for fiscal responsibility in defense policy. Another: resurrect a version of the Congressional Military Reform Caucus (which rose to prominence in the 1980s), this time with a broader mission of exploring the viability of certain military strategies in a fiscal context.
“Reforming every function of government – with the aims of affordability, sustainability, and opportunity – is a vision conservatives can and should strive to achieve,” Moylan and Sepp concluded. “Leaving the Pentagon out of this vision is not an option for conservatives who seek to protect America and protect taxpayers.”