About a year ago, Ron Paul and Barney Frank called for DoD funding cuts of $1T (yes, a trillion dollars) over ten years. That’s called a trial balloon and it was just what you’d expect: a large, round, emotionally satisfying number of significance that is untethered to the reality of specific cuts for specific programs.
Secretary Gates saw the writing on the wall and called for the services to lay in some funding cuts of their own. This was not a trial balloon: it was real, although some programmatic smoke and mirrors are almost certainly present (cost shifting; changes in assumptions about inflation rates; actual savings being in the out years, etc.).
Last month, the President called for another $400 billion in DoD funding cuts. What would be cut, how much, and in what years were anyone’s guess.
Now, Barney Frank is calling for $200 billion in annual cuts to DoD. Again, what would be cut, how much, and in what years are all TBD. I’m sure you’re shocked, shocked!
While a $200 billion cut is ridiculous on its face, it is not an unexpected negotiating ploy (stake out an absurd position and then negotiate it down to something more serious). Still, Frank makes a number of relevant points:
NATO “partners” aren’t paying their share
The security environment is different
Drawdowns are planned for Iraq and Afghanistan
Ultimately, military spending is all about people (the real end item for almost all spending) and profits (for industry, the other end item). So that being said Congressman, what exactly should be cut? From the Defense News article:
As for the parts of the defense budget devoted to military entitlement programs, Frank said, “I plan to duck that question at this time.”
TRICARE, the military’s health care program whose costs are growing faster than inflation, is an important issue to address, he said, but it should be dealt with separately as part of a larger discussion about the country’s overall health care costs.
While avoiding the issue of TRICARE, Frank did say that veterans’ benefits must be protected.
So once you take away all the sacrosanct areas that can’t be cut, you’re left with what can be cut. The solution set would be massive reductions in force, massive program cancellations, and few new starts.