Our message to the deficit "super committee"

 In Afghanistan, Alternatives to War, Nuclear Weapons, Pentagon Spending

In the next few weeks, the “super committee” will decide on a plan that could shape the federal budget for the next decade. We are mobilizing our supporters to contact the super committee and counteract the major push from the defense industry.

We sent the letter below to super committee members to clearly outline the balanced security budget Peace Action West’s supporters would like to see. You can tell the super committee that you support these priorities by clicking here.

On behalf of Peace Action West’s 50,000 supporters, I am writing to urge you to produce deficit reduction recommendations that make Americans more secure by balancing our security budget and preserving domestic programs that contribute to security and prosperity at home.

Reduce wasteful military spending

The base Pentagon budget has increased by more than 50% in the last decade. Pentagon spending, including Overseas Contingency Operations, accounted for 58% of the FY2011 discretionary budget. Any serious plan to reduce the deficit must address wasteful military spending, especially when that spending competes with funding for priorities such as healthcare, job creation, and education.

Our safety is not best measured in dollars spent, but rather in the strategy served by our budget. There is room for substantial reductions in military spending without detriment to US national security. This could include:

·      Reducing all DOD contracts by 10% and freezing hiring of civilian DOD employees

·      Bringing troops home from Europe and Asia and reducing ground forces to pre-9/11 levels

·      Eliminating unnecessary weapons systems such as the F-35, the MV-22 Osprey and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

·      Curtailing national missile defense

The Sustainable Defense Task Force report offers details on a potential $960 billion in savings over the next ten years.[i]

Military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan

US taxpayers have spent more than $1.2 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in direct costs.[ii]  The Eisenhower Study Group projects the long-term costs of the wars, including such costs as veterans’ care and interest payments, will reach $3.2-4 trillion.[iii] There have also been opportunity costs, such as lost jobs and lack of public investment in infrastructure. The macroeconomic impacts have also been significant; the average homebuyer paid an additional $600 in mortgage payments last year because of the increase in interest rates due to borrowing money for the wars.[iv]

The administration is reportedly considering keeping 3-10,000 troops in Iraq beyond the agreed-upon withdrawal deadline. The current plan for Afghanistan leaves nearly 70,000 troops on the ground in the fall of 2012, with no clear end date for withdrawal. With fewer than 100 Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, there is no longer a compelling national security rationale for maintaining a massive military presence in Afghanistan. The raid that apprehended Osama bin Laden demonstrates that policing and intelligence are much more effective approaches to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism.[v] There are several plans available with recommendations for reduced troop levels.[vi] Accelerating withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan would save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Reducing spending on nuclear weapons

With the Cold War over and a national security strategy that decreases reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States cannot afford to spend $700 billion over the next decade on nuclear weapons programs.[vii] In a 21st century security environment, nuclear weapons are more of a liability than an asset; funding for weapons and delivery systems competes with more effective security priorities such as nonproliferation. Cuts could include:

·      Stopping construction of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement Facility in New Mexico, saving $3-5 billion

·      Delaying the New Long Range Penetrating Bomber, saving $3.7 billion

·      Rightsizing the ballistic missile submarine fleet to eight boats, saving $27 billion over ten years

·      Canceling the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Plant, saving an estimated $4 billion

Avoiding disproportionate cuts to the international affairs budget

The international affairs budget accounts for only 1% of the federal budget, yet it has faced disproportionate cuts in the current budget battle, bearing nearly 20% of all discretionary funding cuts in FY2011. These cuts are even more devastating after years of neglect that have weakened our civilian engagement tools. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pointed out, the entire Foreign Service does not include enough people to staff one aircraft carrier.

These programs are essential to preventing costly military intervention, promoting stability and saving lives around the globe. Shortsighted cuts in international affairs funding would further the imbalance in our current security budget and could have detrimental impacts on US engagement and security in the future.

Peace Action West’s supporters strongly urge the super committee to develop a deficit reduction plan that reflects a smart security budget as outlined above. Feel free to contact me for more details on any of these proposals.


Rebecca Griffin

Political Director

Peace Action West

[i] http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/1006SDTFreport.pdf

[ii] http://costofwar.com/en/

[iii] http://costsofwar.org/article/economic-cost-summary

[iv] http://costsofwar.org/article/macroeconomic-impact-military-spending

[v] http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9351/index1.html

[vi] http://www.democracyarsenal.org/2011/06/the-afghan-troop-number-game.html

[vii] http://ploughshares.org/sites/default/files/resources/What%20We%20Spend%20on%20Nuclear%20Weapons%20092811.pdf

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  • […] The New York Times reported, however, that the Pentagon hadn’t even made contingency plans for cuts because they were afraid they would leak to the media and prove that it is in fact perfectly reasonable to make significant cuts to the Pentagon’s budget. The experts in the Sustainable Defense Task Force managed to identify nearly a trillion dollars that could be cut in the next decade without detrimental effects on US security. (You can read our recommendations to the deficit super committee here.) […]

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