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Stewarding Defense in a Budget Cutting Congress

Many new voices have taken up the popular mantra on Capitol Hill voiced by newly minted Senator Rand Paul that "everything is on the table in order to get our government's spending under control...." Cutting defense fraud, waste, and abuse often tops the list. While the call to make Pentagon spending more efficient is laudable--many of those who propose gutting defense either lack specifics or suggests cuts that are wholly impractical or would undermine US security. Furthermore, discussion of "defense" cuts ignores the challenge of recapitalizing the military. Defense procurement has been under funded for decades and exacerbated by the wear and tear on equipment as a result of overseas contingency operations. The real challenge for defense spending in this fiscally constrained environment is to determine how to generate real savings and efficiencies and free-up dollars to boost procurement. In the short term, that is the best strategy for maintaining military readiness, sustaining on-going operations, and preparing for the future without increasing federal spending, growing the deficit or requiring increased taxation.


In "How to Save Money, Reform Processes, and Increase Efficiency in the Defense Department" Heritage Foundation defense analyst Mackenzie Eaglen and Julia Pollak lay out a detailed and realistic agenda for real defense savings. The January 2011 paper finds, "The responsible defense efficiency reform package laid out in this paper could realize more than $70 billion (possibly up to $90 billion) in annual savings. Congress should allow the military to use any savings that it generates to pay for urgent priorities, such as modernization of each of the services' inventories. This will bolster the incentive to improve efficiency while directly strengthening the U.S. military." The paper evaluates the potential for efficiencies in:


  • Continuing and expanding select efficiencies initiatives undertaken by Secretary Gates,
  • Implementing and expanding select reforms recommended by the Fiscal Commission co-chairmen,
  • Expanding the use of public-private partnerships for performance-based logistics,
  • Modernizing base operations and the maintenance and supply systems, and
  • Reducing wear and tear on military equipment and increasing the use of multiyear contracts and block upgrades.

The study concludes that Congress can design a robust reform, efficiency, and savings agenda by picking and choosing the best reforms and expanding the most successful ones. Furthermore, by allowing the military to reinvest all of the identified savings to meet current and future needs, Congress will save the taxpayers money and bolster national security in the long run.


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