Continuing our conversation of a few days ago about cutting the military budget, I just heard that Barney Frank and Ron Paul, along with 55 congressional co-signers sent a letter this evening to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform calling for significant defense cuts. Here’s a clip from the letter:
…The Department of Defense currently takes up almost 56% of all discretionary federal spending, and accounts for nearly 65% of the increase in annual discretionary spending levels since 2001. Much of this increase, of course, is attributable to direct war costs, but nearly 37% of discretionary spending growth falls under the “base” or “peacetime” military budget. Applying the adage that it is necessary to “go where the money is” requires that rigorous scrutiny be applied to military spending. We believe that such an analysis will show that substantial spending cuts can be made without threatening our national security, without cutting essential funds for fighting terrorism, and without shirking our obligations as a nation to our brave troops currently in the field, our veterans, and our military retirees.
Much of these potential savings can be realized if we are willing to make an honest examination of the cost, benefit, and rationale of the extensive U.S. military commitment overseas, which in large part remains a legacy of policy decisions made in the immediate aftermath of World War II and during the Cold War. Years after the Soviet threat has disappeared, we continue to provide European and Asian nations with military protection through our nuclear umbrella and the troops stationed in our overseas military bases. Given the relative wealth of these countries, we should examine the extent of this burden that we continue to shoulder on our own dime.
We also think that significant savings can be found if we subject to similar scrutiny strategic choices that have led to the retention and continued development of Cold War-era weapons systems and initiatives such as missile defense. While the Soviet Union and its allies nearly matched the West’s level of military expenditure during the Cold War, no other nation today remotely approaches the 44% share of worldwide military spending assumed by the United States. China, for instance, spends barely one-fifth as much on military power as the United States. Instead of protecting us against a clear and determined foe and enemy, Defense Department planning and strategic objectives now focus on stemming the emergence of new threats by maintaining a vast range of global commitments on all continents and oceans. We believe that such commitments need to be scaled back…
The letter, in its entirety, can be found here.
While I’m glad to see that Michigan Congressman John Conyers is among the cosigners, along with the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Alan Grayson, I’m disappointed that my Congressman, John Dingell, hadn’t stepped forward to do the right and responsible thing. I appreciate the fact that he’s in a more difficult reelection campaign than he’d expected, and that he’s already fighting the mistaken perception that he’s allowed Sharia law to get a foothold in his district, but I think sometimes you have to look beyond the politics and do what’s right. (Barney Frank is facing a lot of opposition right now too, but it didn’t stop him.) Just because Dingell didn’t sign the letter, however, doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t support the passage of a decreased military budget when the time comes. Assuming he wins in a few weeks, we should make it a point to call his office, and, after congratulating him, tell him that we expect for him to vote with Frank, Paul and company when the time comes.