NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

United States Can Cut Defense Spending without Threatening National Security

June 7, 2013

U.S. citizens have put their trust in the federal government to protect them from foreign enemies and have a robust defense. This entails not simply cobbling together a war-fighting capability and funding sophisticated weapons. It must also mean differentiating needs from wants, planning for economic as well as military strength, exercising consistent oversight, and ensuring that our defense posture reflects the sustainable, right-sized government conservatives seek. As by far the largest portion of discretionary spending, Pentagon expenditures must not escape scrutiny when examining methods for reducing our staggering debt, say Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, and Andrew Moylan, senior fellow and outreach director for the R Street Institute.

Most recommendations have been adapted from existing publicly available sources and may be familiar to some readers. But in each example, it makes the case for eliminating, reducing or reforming current Pentagon policies, specifically from the fiscally conservative perspective. These options fall into three broad categories:

  • Addressing Wasteful, Unnecessary, or Low-Priority Weapons Systems. These items largely represent the "low-hanging fruit" of military undertakings that show little promise of making efficient or effective contributions to the nation's security.
  • Pursuing Personnel, Compensation and Benefit Reforms. With so much of the military budget tied to personnel, and with the Pentagon facing many of the same workforce issues that affect agencies throughout government, it is fitting for conservatives to support changes to compensation and benefits that reflect best practices and experience from the private and other areas of the public sector. These also include gradual reductions in uniformed and civilian personnel.
  • Overhauling Deficient Processes. How the Pentagon does things is as important as what it does. Suggestions in this section (running from supply-chain improvements to accounting upgrades) are basic tenets of management that conservatives have long backed for other agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

These three categories provide nearly $1.9 trillion of recommendations for potential savings over the space of a decade through over 100 specific policy changes, which is more than enough to choose from in order to meet sequestration targets established in the Budget Control Act.

Source: Pete Sepp and Andrew Moylan, "Defending America, Defending Taxpayers: How Pentagon Spending Can Better Reflect Conservative Values," National Taxpayers Union and R Street Institute, June 4, 2013.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues