Senate Democrats give Pentagon a pass

 In Pentagon Spending

We are only a couple of weeks away from the deadline for automatic spending cuts to discretionary spending, and Senate Democrats have released an underwhelming plan to stave off one year of the cuts. The $120 billion plan includes $55 billion in additional revenues, and $55 billion in spending cuts, split between agricultural subsidies and Pentagon spending.

There are certainly merits to this approach. The fact that other non-defense discretionary spending is spared is great news for domestic programs we support. And it’s encouraging that half of the cuts are coming from the Pentagon. However, a look at the details shows that the cuts are a drop in the bucket:

Responsible defense cuts: $27.5 billion:
The American Family Economic Protection Act includes modest reductions in the overall level of defense spending phased in responsibly to time with the troop drawdown in Afghanistan in 2015, and continuing through 2021. The reduction would be about $3 billion in Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016, and then would rise slowly to a high of about $5 billion in Fiscal Year 2021.

The Pentagon probably loses that much money in the couch cushions every year. Unless Senate Democrats plan this as only a first bite at the apple (since this only averts a year’s worth of cuts) it’s terribly disappointing. It also undermines the usefulness of raising $55 billion in revenues if the money will just be spent to keep wasteful Pentagon programs afloat.

Of course this is just an intellectual exercise since no reasonable person imagines that Congress will be able to pass this. But it shows that we need to be even more aggressive in pushing Congress to take advantage of this opportunity to reshape the Pentagon budget to reflect a smarter, more modern strategy.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has put forward a much more appealing approach with The Balancing Act, which would raise $960 billion in revenue and invest some of that back in job creation, and cut $278 billion in wasteful Pentagon spending. While even that is much more modest than the $500 billion cut in the sequester (which the Pentagon could sustain without harm to our national security, despite their hyperventilating), it is a much stronger plan than what congressional leadership has put forward so far.



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