Championing Responsible National Security Policy

Conservative Report Finds $1.8 Trillion in Pentagon Savings

“The ‘universe’ of programs and processes in need of reform at the Pentagon is more than large enough to allow for compliance with so-called sequestration while maintaining the strongest and most capable military the world has ever known.” – R Street Institute and National Taxpayers Union, June 2013

We couldn’t agree more. This quote, from a report released Tuesday by the fiscally conservative organizations R Street Institute and National Taxpayers Union, reflects a growing consensus that we can no longer afford to overlook waste at the Pentagon. Defending America, Defending Taxpayers details 100 specific recommendations for cuts to the Department of Defense (DoD)—the nation’s largest agency—totaling over $1.8 trillion, and makes a compelling argument for why these cuts will make our defense budget leaner while keeping us safe.

Defending America, Defending Taxpayers recommends cuts for fiscal discipline, but also takes care to distinguish between necessary programs and budgetary fat. The recommendations are divided into three categories: weapons systems, personnel and compensation, and programs and processes. If the recommended cuts were implemented, they would save the federal government $385.8 billion, $618.6 billion, and $878.5 billion, respectively.

James Davidson, Chairman Emeritus of the National Taxpayers Union, said of problematic Pentagon spending:

Not only does the Pentagon bid up the prices of items which only it can buy—like tanks—but it also pays too much for everyday items—like screws—which anyone could buy for less. Since the military does not need to compete in providing our defense, it has no reason to worry about cost-effectiveness.

As the groups explain, one sensible way to address cost-effectiveness at DoD is “Audit the Pentagon” legislation. The report describes this legislation and the different approaches sponsored by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). The groups say the reforms are “vital to establishing a basic accounting foundation at the Department of Defense upon which other fiscal reforms can be built.” It points out that even the savings estimated in the report are likely understated, as it is impossible to know just how much is being spent without a uniform accounting system.

We are pleased to see several recommendations included from a DoD budget report authored by the Project On Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense, Spending Even Less, Spending Even Smarter, as well as others we support:

  • Reduce reliance on contractors ($372 billion)
  • Delay Ground Combat Vehicle ($7 billion)
  • End procurement of Littoral Combat Ship ($2 billion)
  • Delay refurbishment of Abrams tank ($3 billion)
  • Reduce or eliminate ground-based missile defense systems ($6 billion)
  • Delay new E model of Army Apache helicopter ($1.3 billion in savings over one year)
  • Replace B and C models of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with F/A-18E/F Super Hornets ($61.7 billion)
  • Replace V-22 Osprey with MH-60 and CH-53 helicopters ($17.1 billion)
  • Cancel C-130 avionics modernization ($208 million in savings over one year)

With this many common-sense cuts supported by fiscal conservatives who believe in a strong economy and a strong defense, we wonder why Congress continues to spend like there is no budget crisis.