As Republicans take their case to the voters in November about the Obama administration's massive overspending and record debt, they should seriously consider what could be a rare bipartisan objective: cutting defense spending.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- a George W. Bush appointee and an Obama holdover -- has announced plans to reduce what he calls the "cumbersome" American military hierarchy. Gates also wants to cut spending by more than one-quarter on support contractors and close the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., which, according to the Washington Post, "employs about 2,800 military and civilian personnel as well as 3,300 contractors, most of them in southeastern Virginia." Gates' proposal got the attention of Senator James Webb, Virginia Democrat and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican. Closing a national security facility would cost jobs and Virginia, which recently announced a budget surplus and houses the Pentagon and other military venues, doesn't want to regress.
It is one of Washington's major embarrassments that no matter which party controls Congress, members use defense spending to create jobs and do favors for political contributors in their states and districts. But like the bipartisan Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which operated through Republican and Democratic administrations and resulted in the closing of 350 outdated military bases, a similar approach to cutting unnecessary defense spending might also produce benefits to taxpayers.
The problem has been that the Left too often wants to cut defense for its own anti-war and political agenda and the Right thinks all defense spending is good and to cut it is unpatriotic. So how about starting with the most outrageous and unnecessary spending, which should make harder cuts a little easier?
Citizens Against Government Waste (www.cagw.org) offers some useful places to begin. In the 2010 defense budget, "$3,385,000,000 was added anonymously for four projects. According to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, signed into law on Sept. 14, 2007 by President George W. Bush, members of Congress are required to add their name to each earmark. However, they continue to violate this law by adding anonymous earmarks to fund projects -- often big-ticket items -- at the expense of taxpayers." Why can't Congress live under laws it passes to regulate itself?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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