Brian Darling

Clearly, there is waste in the defense budget, yet scheduled cuts will do nothing to get rid of specific instances of waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon. In July of 2011, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) put out a plan titled Back in Black with over $1 trillion in defense cuts. Senator Coburn is correct to argue that “the Department of Defense can and must play a role in bringing our budgets into balance.” Many conservatives, me included, don’t agree with all of Coburn’s proposed cuts, but he puts some common sense cuts on the table.

Coburn points out that the federal government could save $9.1 billion over 10 years by consolidating the administration of 252 grocery stores run by the Defense Commissary Agency and retail stores. The Senator also found $10 billion in savings by closing down the Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS). There is no rationale for having military-run schools in the United States.

The problem with the sequester is that the Defense Department will not include Coburn’s ideas for cuts. Sequestration will hurt major modernization programs of the Department of Defense. The Heritage Foundation identified over $200 billion in cuts in the Saving the American Dream plan, but because we have underinvested in modernizing for so long that we need to take any savings and reinvest that money in defense -- not take it off the top line.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), put out a fact sheet arguing that the Sequester would be “catastrophic” and an “unacceptable risk” with “disastrous consequences for soldiers, veterans, national security, and the economy.” Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the HASC Readiness Subcommittee, is looking for ways to protect ships, military vehicles and aircraft from being sequester targets.

Forbes introduced H. Res. 441 arguing that further reductions in core national security funding will harm U.S. interests. The resolution memorializes the fact that decisions on cuts will not be based on “an assessment of the threats” faced, but on “budgetary pressure.” With our military in dire need of modernization, this is not the time for politically motivated cuts.

The Obama Administration and allies in Congress want to use defense programs to bow to foreign powers, pay for bigger domestic spending initiatives and grow government. The left likes increased federal highway spending, expanded government-controlled health care and crony capitalism in the form the propping up the Export-Import Bank more than it likes missile defense, adequate troop levels and updated equipment.

Thankfully there are those in Congress willing to fight force-weakening defense cuts. Allowing the defense sequester to stand would be a huge mistake.


Brian Darling

Brian Darling is a Senior Fellow in Government Studies at the Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @BrianHDarling