“Going from three cops to two cops in a pretty rough neighborhood”
Last week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave an exclusive interview in the New York Times where he detailed a series of cuts to the military made necessary by spending reductions already in force.
Since 2010, America’s military has paid for half of all deficit reduction efforts, a total of more than $450 billion. These are cuts that must be made even before the military is hit with a $500 billion bill if the Super Committee fails.
Below is a list of items the Pentagon is considering or enacting to meet deficit reduction targets already in force:
- Eliminating Waste: With a budget as large as the Pentagon’s, there is certainly room to finds savings and eliminate waste. But the House Armed Services Committee estimates that even with the most aggressive cost-saving measures, the Secretary will be forced to look at other areas to reach the $450 billion threshold.
- 50,000 Fewer Soldiers and 15,000 Fewer Marines: The Secretary is reducing force levels at a time when unemployment rates for veterans and wounded veterans are unacceptably high. Under sequestration, the Armed Services Committee estimates that force levels would fall well below pre-9/11 levels. Under sequestration, the Secretary estimates America would have the smallest ground force since 1940.
- Another Round of Base Closures: This would be the second BRAC round in a decade. The 2005 round impacted over 800 defense locations, relocated 123,000 personnel, and cost over $35 billion to implement.
- Fewer Air Wings: The Armed Services Committee estimates that the Secretary will have to eliminate about 250 fighter aircraft to achieve deficit benchmarks. Under sequestration the Armed Services Committee estimates he would have to eliminate almost 500.
- Cuts to the Joint Strike Fighter: As China is set to build 300 fifth-generation fighters in the next five years, the Secretary would be forced to substantially delay and reduce purchases of the F-35. This aircraft is needed to replace fighter aircraft in the oldest Air Force since the service began in 1947. Under sequestration, the Secretary said in a letter to Senators McCain and Graham that he would be forced to terminate the program entirely.
- Cutting Troops Based in Europe: The Secretary will look at cutting forces and bases in Europe that provide a strategic forward presence vital to American operations over the last ten years. The move would probably cost money upfront and sends a dangerous message to American allies and enemies alike.
- Fewer Nuclear Weapons: The Secretary highlighted a reduction in nuclear weapons to the New York Times. The Armed Services Committee estimates that DoD will consider unilateral disarmament of an entire missile wing as Russia and China modernize and expand their arsenals. Under sequestration, the Secretary said in his letter this week that he would be forced to eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad, which has served as the basis for America’s deterrent for decades.
- Higher Fees for Military Healthcare and Retirement Benefits: Current retirees and troops serving would face an undetermined increase in fees for their benefits, further placing the burden of deficit reduction upon the 1 percent of Americans who defend the other 99 percent.