WSJ EDITORIAL: Pentagon Spending Sanity

Apr 27, 2018
Defense Drumbeat

Wall Street Journal | By The Editorial Board

Congress recently increased military spending, but if the Pentagon wants this to be more than a one-time boost it needs to show it can get more bang for the buck. The House is considering several proposals that would help, and Democrats ought to support the effort.

Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry recently rolled out a bill to streamline the 28 independent agencies that are part of the military-bureaucratic complex. This back-office support army is often called the “fourth estate” and costs more than $100 billion a year, or nearly 20% of the defense budget, with some 200,000 civilian employees and 600,000 contractors. Spending since the Reagan buildup has fallen about 16% for the Navy and 21% for the Air Force in constant dollars. But the fourth-estate budget has exploded by 242%. Growth in the civilian workforce has outstripped that of war fighters.

The House bill would eliminate seven agencies by 2021 and ask others to find savings of 25%. One deserving target for elimination is the Office of Economic Adjustment, which exists to subsidize areas affected by base closures. This is a matter for private development, not bureaucratic planning...

Pentagon leaders have typically resisted reform, and the military protects its iron rice bowl like any government agency. But a Reagan-size defense buildup isn’t coming; the military competes with entitlements that suck up ever-more of the federal budget. The only way for the Pentagon to continue to protect the nation is if it becomes as ruthless in fighting waste and mismanagement as it is other adversaries.

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115th Congress