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Pentagon Spending Cuts? No so fast.

August 10, 2010

Perhaps like me, you groped for your coffee this morning, heard news reports that Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced plans to cut Pentagon spending, and suddenly woke up!  Wow, the SecDef has joined our call for cuts in military spending!

Not so fast.

The headlines and the blurts on radio and TV have just the effect intended.  They convey to the public and Congress that the Pentagon has heard the cries for reducing federal deficits.  Even though President Obama said he would exempt the Pentagon from across the board federal spending cuts, the SecDef appears to be leading the deficit hawks by announcing spending cuts.

“Appears” is the operative word.  As far as I can tell, the SecDef has no intention of reducing the overall spending of the Pentagon.

Well, if “Pentagon spending cut” doesn’t mean reduced military spending, what does it mean?  It means that SecDef Gates is going to use this years “deficit crisis” to cut spending on some military contracts, jobs, and bases, and, then, he’ll keep the “savings” to fund other military programs that he likes better.

I’m assuming that Gates is trying to get control of Pentagon spending, and that he is daring to set priorities, something DoD is not accustomed to doing, but I also assume that our SecDef is not proposing to reduce overall military spending, which would be a real cut.

In other words,  I’m guessing that (a) Gates sees the political handwriting on the wall and is taking a political step now to preempt any Congressional calls for deep cuts in Pentagon spending; and (b) he is not really planning to significantly reduce Department of Defense (DoD) spending, but he will set some priorities, cut some programs, and move the money toward his priorities.  That is, he is not going to let a “deficit crisis” go unused; he’ll use it to eliminate some military waste and to strengthen the military programs he likes.

Members of Congress, Governors, and mayors can be counted on to pummel Gates for cutting some military spending in some congressional districts, states, or cities.  For example, my governor, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, expressed outrage today that Gates would take money from the Pentagon to fund domestic programs.  (He’s wrong that Gates would shift the money to domestic programs, although he’s right some military spending would be reduced in Virginia.)  The facts be damned, McDonnell and others will protest the loss of jobs and revenue.

Although Gates didn’t name a number, we’ve heard that he plans cuts in the range of $100 billion over the next five  years.  Virginia, I’m told, currently gets about 10% of its GDP from military spending.  Most states get much less.  However, given how Congress protects military spending, you might think that a state’s GDP depended on continued high levels of military spending.  In fact, federal spending for other sectors in the economy, e.g. education, health, transportation, and greening of buildings, produce more jobs and create more value than does military spending.

Our elected officials should be demanding cuts in military spending so that that money could be used to rebuild America by putting more Americans to work providing services and adding value.

So don’t cry for the poor Pentagon.  Military spending will probably continue to grow unless we mobilize voters to demand that Congress make real cuts, cuts that actually reduce overall Pentagon spending.

FCNL and The National Priorities Project have launched Our Nation’s Checkbook campaign to mobilize concerned taxpayers across the country.  Today would be a good time to contact your member of Congress to correct the misleading Pentagon message that it plans to cut spending.  It doesn’t.  It plans to continue spending just as much as ever, but, perhaps, on fewer things.  We have big problems to solve, and solving them will take some big money, too, but war is not the answer.

One Comment
  1. Jeanne DeFlorio permalink
    August 11, 2010 7:38 am

    Interesting fact that spending on programs that benefit America Citizens actually creates more jobs that Military Spending as this article points out.

    Just how is it that the vast majority of the people cannot see this?

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