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Frank pushes for cuts to defense spending

Posted by Rob Anderson  October 13, 2010 02:06 PM

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PX00024_9.JPGIf Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives this November, Rep. Barney Frank will no longer be the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. The demotion would mean that the representative from Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district would have considerably less power and a bit more time on his hands. When Frank sat down with the Globe’s editorial board last week, he mentioned that, if the Democrats did lose the house, he would use some of that extra time to advance a cause he has taken up with Republican Rep. Ron Paul: reducing the nation’s defense spending.

As a part of that campaign, Frank and Paul sent a letter this week to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a bipartisan group President Obama created to address our nation's fiscal challenges, urging the commission to recommend “substantial reductions in projected levels of future spending by the Department of Defense.” In total, 55 members of Congress signed onto the letter. Here’s the crux:

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.

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.

Frank and Paul, along with the other members of the Sustainable Defense Task Force in Congress, commissioned a study earlier this year that proposed measures to cut $960 billion from the defense budget between 2011 and 2020. You can read the entire report here [pdf], but, in short, it recommends cuts on:

  • Department of Defense programs that are based on unreliable or unproven technologies
  • Missions that exhibit a poor cost-benefit payoff and capabilities that fail the test of cost-effectiveness or that possess a very limited utility
  • Assets and capabilities that mismatch or substantially over-match current and emerging military challenges, and
  • Opportunities for providing needed capabilities and assets at lower cost via management reforms.

Over at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein has praised the effort, pointing out that because military spending is such a controversial political issue, “a lot of waste and redundancy builds up.”

Although he hasn’t yet commented on Frank and Paul’s latest push, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized a previous proposal earlier this year. Cuts “would be dangerous now, given the national security requirements that we have,” Mullen said.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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