WASHINGTON — Suggesting a series of moves typically viewed as politically unworkable, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said Tuesday that tough decisions must be made to confront the budget realities of decreased spending, an aging population and limited revenue.
“The fact is that we will prove ourselves to be the most selfish generation in history,” Moran said. “This scenario that I have painted is not what I would prefer, but it is the inevitable result of the direction in which we're going.”
Speaking at the Credit Suisse/McAleese Defense Conference here, Moran described the need to control military pay, add co-pays and other fees to cut the Department of Defense's healthcare spending, bring back earmarks to help Congress direct spending to critical areas, and even raise taxes on the middle class.
Congress has repeatedly increased benefits for members of the military in the last 10 years, with those objecting attacked for failing to support the troops, and tax increases are never a popular position.
Moran said he would prefer to avoid broad defense cuts, but began his remarks by describing his expectation that they likely won't be reversed. If those cuts remain, Moran said, even unsavory solutions have to be considered.
“Congress is going to have to allow the DoD to do its part in controlling healthcare costs despite the political repercussions,” Moran said. “The military should be allowed to impose the appropriate heath insurance enrollment fees, limit double Tricare coverage for retirees who pursue second careers, and raise co-pays to stem duplicative treatment. These measures alone would save $9 billion from what is today the country's most generous healthcare system.”
Moran pointed out that most Americans consider themselves to be in the middle class, where tax increases likely will be necessary to manage the larger social program obligations, such as Social Security.
“The middle class is going to have to pay higher taxes; that's just the reality,” he said.
The congressman's district in Northern Virginia includes corporate headquarters for a variety of defense contractors who work with the Pentagon. But Moran's remarks emphasized approaches to cuts rather than political rhetoric to encourage increased military budgets.
Moran even described his belief that in the present budget climate, DoD must accept that it cannot manage large campaigns against powerful nations, and needs to focus on the use of its intelligence apparatus and other less visible means to protect the country that might not fall within the old Cold War model.
“In this age of defense austerity, as long as it continues, the Pentagon would be wise to recognize that plans to confront near-peer competitors are not realistic, feasible or affordable,” he said.