WASHINGTON — The Pentagon could save more than $1.2 trillion with a number of tweaks to its spending plan for the next decade, including canceling the creation of a Space Force and nuclear weapons projects, according to a report by the Center for International Policy.
The report, “Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending,” offers new strategies that challenge the National Defense Strategy by encouraging more diplomacy (specifically in regard to the Iran nuclear deal) and less military confrontation to cut costs. It also says the NDS “exaggerate[s] the challenges posed by major powers” like China and Russia.
The report offers Congress several solutions to reduce Defense Department spending in the short term, including restricting overseas contingency operations funds, cutting the Pentagon’s private contractor workforce by 15 percent, blocking plans for the Space Force, avoiding placing weapons in space and rolling back the nuclear modernization plan. Capitol Hill is in the middle of a funding debate over fiscal 2020 military spending.
The Defense Department’s top-line budget hit $691 billion in FY10 and generally decreased until FY16, when the budget saw an increase and continued since, reaching $686 billion in FY19. The White House has proposed a $750 billion budget for FY20.
To reach the $1.2 trillion-plus reduction, spending cuts would come from three general areas:
- Force structure and weapons procurement reductions.
- Overhead and efficiencies.
- Nuclear weapons, missile defense and space.
Recommendations from the report call for a reduction in end strength for the Army and Marine Corps. If this approach is adopted, the Army’s active-duty force would see about a 13 percent reduction in planned end strength, from 488,000 to 426,000. The Marine Corps would see a reduction in its active infantry battalions and combat and support units, and an approximately 15 percent reduction in end strength, from 186,000 to 157,000.
The Navy would also face cuts to the current size of its fleet from about 297 ships to 264 under the report’s recommendations. This would interrupt the Navy’s goal of building a 325-ship fleet by 2028, the report adds.
The report suggests eliminating efforts to produce a new nuclear, air-launched cruise missile, known as the Long Range Standoff Weapon, which it calls “redundant.” This would save $13.3 billion over a 10-year period, the report claims. The Pentagon could also save $30 billion over 10 years by canceling plans for a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
On the U.S. nuclear strategy overall, the report recommends the country move toward “a posture of sufficiency — a large enough arsenal to deter attacks on the United States and its allies. No additional capability is needed.”
Canceling plans for a Space Force would save the department $10 billion over the same period, the report says. Plans for the Space Force were adopted by the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday during its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act. The language of the bill renames the organization Space Corps and places it under the purview of the Department of the Air Force.
The report states that the U.S. is much safer today than it once was, adding that while international terrorist organizations remain a threat, their existence does not warrant an expansion of military force.
“[T]the wars of the last 18 years — including large-scale counterinsurgency efforts, nation building, and global terrorist-chasing, as occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond — have done more harm than good, in some cases disastrously so,” the report asserts. It suggests abandoning policies that led to war and reducing the size and geographic reach of the military to “stop unnecessarily risking the lives of U.S. troops.”
The report also claims Russia and China pose no threat to the U.S. in terms of conventional military power. Rather, the competition with those countries lies in “economic dominance (particularly with China) and diplomatic influence.”
The report says the most urgent national security risks lie in climate change, cyberattacks, global disease epidemics, and income and wealth gaps.