Of the three proposals, cutting the Defense Department’s civilian workforce—which his risen to nearly 800,000—may be the most politically palatable.But lawmakers already are challenging a Pentagon proposal to set up a new base closure commission. And politicians have largely rejected past Defense Department efforts to raise fees to pay for the military’s health-care benefits.
Congress is reveling in its own short-sightedness more than usual these days. Yesterday we learned that 20 percent of all bills it passes go to the vital national goal of naming post offices. Resisting calls to eliminate wasteful defense fluff—albeit fluff that plays well in home districts—is sadly par for the course.Readers who are more interested in reform than our do-nothing Congress should consult a piece in the upcoming issue of The American Interest that lays out in detail some common sense cuts the Pentagon can make without hurting national security. Former Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim notes that, due to various budget-cutting mandates, the Defense Department will likely have to cut its budget by $60 billion every year until the end of the decade. He argues that there is a lot of low-hanging budgetary fruit. For example, the Pentagon could cut back in waste and fraud in contracting:
The Department of Defense wastes billions of dollars funding contracts in support of contingency operations. In the 2001–11 period, as much as $60 billion was squandered through waste, fraud and abuse, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of those wasted funds came out of defense contracts. Yet contracting will not come to an end with the withdrawal of most American troops from Afghanistan. A force that could exceed 10,000 is likely to remain there for an indefinite period (assuming no regime change); contractors could constitute the majority of that force
Zakheim also proposes cuts in civilian personel, incentivizing early retirement for older officials, reforming military retirement and heath care, reducing waste in the management of base operations, selective cuts in domestic defense labs and military bases, and other ideas.Read the whole thing to get a sense of where the Pentagon should go from here in making its spending cuts—if Congress will let it.