Time to hold a magnifying glass to national security spending

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Pentagon spending includes spending on wars, nuclear weapons, and military construction. Our nation’s greatness and future security are not served by a bloated nuclear arsenal, unnecessary weapons systems, and endless war. Our future will be best-served with investments in education, jobs, healthcare, science and technology and a clean environment. To make those cuts we must cut bloated Pentagon spending.
 
As president of the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL) and a Georgia State Senator, I work with a network of women from across the country. My fellow state legislators are battling budget shortfalls year after year. After 9-11, state budgets have taken on massive new costs for homeland security measures. National Guard and other returning veterans need state and local services. The women state legislators who are a part of WiLL understand that increases in Pentagon spending mean their strapped state budgets get further shortchanged. With the impacts of this great recession and the end of stimulus funding, states cannot afford the devastating cuts that would come with the Ryan Budget or the planned sequestration cuts to nondefense spending.
 
The Ryan budget increases Pentagon spending for the coming year by $8 billion more than what was agreed to last August in the Budget Control Act. That difference would be paid for by slashing even further every other funding priority.
 
The House approach also exempts the Pentagon from the looming automatic sequestration cuts by taking more from all of the other programs and investments. Congress will have to slash from k-12 and higher education, national parks and clean water programs, medical and scientific research, clean energy – you name it. Everything would be cut while the Pentagon trough gets filled.
 
We all want a common defense that works. We agree that veterans and their families deserve the best in recognition of their sacrifice. They also deserve to come home to a strong, vibrant economy with plenty of job opportunities.
 
What we don’t want are redundant and unnecessary weapons that don’t address today’s security needs, mismanaged projects that go far over budget due to lack of Pentagon audit, and defense industry lobbyist lining their coffers at our expense. Former Defense Secretary Gates says, “We can't hold ourselves exempt from the belt-tightening. Neither can we allow ourselves to contribute to the very debt that puts our long-term
security at risk."
 
What we do want are jobs. Some claim that cutting excessive Pentagon spending means losing good jobs. On the contrary, economic studies have shown that federal investments in any other category, including education, healthcare, or clean energy, create more jobs than federal dollars spent in the military sector. These are the sustainable jobs that we need for our future. Let’s choose teachers, doctors, nurses, first responders, home weatherization, and wind turbines over building bombs that we don’t need and can’t afford.
 
It’s time to hold a magnifying glass to Pentagon spending. Other domestic spending is equally important to the future of our nation. Jobs,  education, health care, a clean environment, safe roads and bridges and mass transit, are all a part of our national security.  These are essential components of fulfilling our nation’s obligation to secure a bright future for America.
 
Many domestic, religious and nonprofit groups agree and are speaking up. Even fiscally responsible conservatives are mobilizing. If we are ever to rid ourselves of ghastly cost overruns, end exorbitant contractor fees, stop no bid contracts, and massive, unnecessary weapons systems maybe we must hold the Pentagon accountable for its spending.

Congress must responsibly reduce Pentagon spending. This Independence Day, I urge that each of send a message to our members of Congress that a budget that ensures security for all by investing in social programs is what will let our freedom ring.

 
Nan Grogan Orrock is a state senator in Georgia and president of the Women Legislators’ Lobby – a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).