Washington, D.C.—Today, during a briefing on Capitol Hill, the Sustainable Defense Task Force, which was established by the Washington-based Center for International Policy and includes ex-military officers, former Pentagon officials, and former White House and Congressional budget analysts, released a new report on how the Pentagon can save taxpayer dollars while at the same time improving security for our nation. The report, A Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending, details how the U.S. can cut over $1.2 trillion in projected Pentagon spending over the next decade while at the same time improving national security. (A link to the full report is above, and a summary can be found here and a two-page fact sheet is here).
“There needs to be a fresh approach to defense strategy that makes America more secure while consuming fewer resources,” stated William Hartung, co-editor of the report. He continued, “A new strategy must be more restrained than the military-led approach adopted in this century, replacing a policy of perpetual war with one that uses military force only as a last resort when vital security interests are at stake.”
The Sustainable Defense Task Force produced the report to counter the January 2018 National Defense Strategy and the 2019 National Defense Strategy Commission. “The National Defense Strategy Commission report is an exercise in threat inflation that exaggerates the military threats posed by Russia and China while ignoring urgent, non-military challenges to our security,” said report co-editor Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy.
A major finding of the CIP report is that, contrary to the claims of boosters of Pentagon spending, the U.S. military has been amply funded during the period in which the Budget Control Act (BCA) has been in effect. The U.S. is projected to spend $5.8 billion in the BCA decade (FY2012-FY2021), over $1 trillion morethan it spent in the prior ten years, when the Iraq and Afghan wars were at their peaks. “The ample funding of the Pentagon during this decade underscores the fact that there should be no ‘readiness crisis,'” said Hartung. “To the extent that there are readiness issues, it is due to poor spending choices, not a lack of resources.”
Elements of a new strategy outlined in the report focus on the following key areas:
- The United States is relatively secure by historical standards. Homeland security measures have reduced the prospect of a major terrorist attack, and the U.S. nuclear deterrent is more than sufficient to dissuade any nation from attacking the United States.
- Our policy of perpetual war has done more harm than good for our nation, costing thousands of lives, causing hundreds of thousands of serious injuries to U.S. veterans, and costing trillions of dollars, while doing as much to provoke the growth of global terrorist organizations as to eliminate them.
- Russia and China are no match for the United States military, which maintains global preeminence. Working in concert with allies, the security challenges that these powers do pose can be addressed without expanding U.S. forces. The greatest long-term challenges posed by rival great powers are economic and diplomatic, not military.
- Regional challenges like North Korea and Iran are best dealt with by diplomacy, not wars or threats of war.
- A deterrence-only nuclear strategy will protect the United States from attack and reduce the risk of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.
- The most urgent risks to U.S. security are economic and environmental, not military, and we need to invest in non-military tools to address these challenges.
- U.S. strategy should place greater reliance on diplomacy and international cooperation, from reentering the Iran nuclear deal, to extending the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, to joining global efforts to combat climate change.
Options to Reduce Spending
The report cites the following reductions in spending over the next ten years:
List of Options for Reducing Spending
10-Year Savings Estimate
- Force Structure and Weapons Procurement Reductions*
- Army Reductions and Restructuring $160 Billion
- Marine Corps Reductions and Restructuring $60 Billion
- U.S. Navy Personnel and Weapons Procurement Reductions $193 Billion
- U.S. Air Force Personnel and Aircraft Procurement Reductions $100.5 Billion
- Peacetime Troop Deployments Overseas Reductions $17 Billion
- End America’s Endless Wars/Phase Out OCO $320 Billion
- Overhead and Efficiencies
- Reduce O&M Spending on Service Contracts $262.5 Billion
- Replace Some Military Personnel with Civilians $16.7 Billion
- Close Unnecessary Military Bases $20 Billion
- Nuclear Weapons, Missile Defense, and Space
- Eliminate the New Nuclear Cruise Missile $13.3 Billion
- Cancel the New ICBM $30 Billion
- Cancel the Space Force $10 Billion
- Cancel R&D on Space-Based Weapons $3 Billion
- Cancel Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System $20 Billion
- Cancel New Nuclear Warheads and Rollback Modernization $15 Billion
- Include Nuclear Weapons Complex in a BRAC Round $10 Billion
Total: $1,251 Billion
Sustainable Defense Task Force Members
Co-Directors:William Hartung, Director, Arms & Security Project, Center for International Policy; and Ben Freeman, Director, Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, Center for International Policy, working in conjunction with CIP Senior Fellow Carl Conetta, who was a consultant to the project.
- Gordon Adams, Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center and professor emeritus at the School of International Service, American University
- Amy Belasco, former Specialist for the Defense Budget of the Congressional Research Service
- Neta Crawford, Professor and Department Chair of Political Science at Boston University
- Matt Fay, former Director of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Niskanen Center
- Ben Friedman, Senior Fellow and Defense Scholar at Defense Priorities
- Laicie Heeley, CEO of Inkstick, Host of Things That Go Boom
- John King, Founder, King and Brown Company LLC
- Larry Korb, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and adjunct professor at Georgetown University
- Lindsay Koshgarian, Program Director, National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
- Miriam Pemberton, Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies
- Mandy Smithberger, Director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight
- Col. Larry Wilkerson (Ret.), Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy, William & Mary
- Col. Isaiah “Ike” Wilson (Ret.), director, Strategic Studies Institute, Army War College