The Pentagon’s proposed $582 billion budget is more than enough to address current security challenges.  But members of Congress who agreed to this spending level in last year’s budget deal are already crying out for more.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has suggested that additional funding be added to the war budget, formally known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, or OCO.  His rationale is that adding a total of about $5 billion to boost the fight against ISIS and deploy additional weapons and personnel to Europe will bust the budget.  But this spending, which amounts to less than one per cent of the total resources available to the Pentagon under the current proposal, is no reason to go beyond the spending levels set out in last year’s budget deal.

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The new expenditures for fighting ISIS and reassuring European allies can be easily accommodated without raising the administration’s proposed war budget of $59 billion.  This account has regularly been used as a slush fund to pay for items the Pentagon wants that have nothing to do with fighting any current conflict.  Estimates by the Congressional Research Service and independent analysts suggest that at least $100 billion has been added to the OCO budget over the years to pay for non-war costs.  And in last year’s budget debate the negotiators abandoned even the pretext that the war budget was being limited to its intended purpose.

Supporters of more OCO funding will argue that one way or another increased spending on ISIS and European defense will blow a hole in the Pentagon’s base budget.  Even if we acknowledge that the war budget is padded with unrelated expenditures, they argue, those funds are needed to fund essential programs that don’t fit under the current caps on regular Pentagon spending.  But this argument assumes that all of the expenditures in the Pentagon’s current budget are essential for defending the country.  That is not the case.

For starters, there are billions of dollars of investment slated for programs that aren’t ready for prime time, or may not be needed at all.  For example, the F-35 combat aircraft – which at an estimated $1.4 trillion over its lifetime is the most expensive weapons program undertaken by the Pentagon – continues to be plagued by performance problems.  A recent report by the Pentagon’s independent testing office noted that moving too quickly on the program would reduce the incentive for the plane’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, to “correct an already substantial list of deficiencies in performance, a list that will only lengthen as . . . testing continues.”  

Another area where spending can be reduced is in the plan to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, with investments in a new bomber, a new land-based ballistic missile, a new ballistic missile submarine, and a new nuclear-armed cruise missile.    In particular, spending money now on a new nuclear cruise missile is redundant and ill advised, as former secretary of Defense William Perry and other experts have pointed out.

Then there is the Pentagon’s shadow work force – the hundreds of thousands of private contractors hired by the department.  Many of them do work that could be done by government employees more cheaply and efficiently, and some do tasks that aren’t necessary in the first place.  Cutting here could save tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Finally, there is the sheer volume of waste, fraud and abuse that continues to plague Pentagon spending.  For example, the most recent assessment by the Government Accountability Office suggests that the Pentagon may be sitting on nearly $1 billion in excess spare parts.  Better buying practices could prevent this wasteful buying pattern from persisting into the future, saving billions in the process. 

What is really needed is for Congress to give the Pentagon a financial incentive to get its books in order.  The Department of Defense is the only major U.S. government agency that cannot pass an audit. Bills that would press it to do so have been put forward by members of Congress that range from Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Michael BurgessMichael BurgessMedicaid efficiency is needed now, more than ever In the politics of healthcare reform, past is prologue New hope for ObamaCare repeal? Key GOP lawmaker working on amendment MORE (R-Texas) to Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Pressure on Trump grows as Kushner is questioned Kushner says he did not collude with Russia, had no improper contacts MORE (D-W.Va.), Ron WydenRon WydenPressure on Trump grows as Kushner is questioned Senate Dem: Kushner's statement raises more questions than it answers Kushner says he did not collude with Russia, had no improper contacts MORE (D-Ore.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersNew Dem message doesn’t mention Trump Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Overnight Healthcare: Trump pressures GOP ahead of vote | McConnell urges Senate to start debate | Cornyn floats conference on House, Senate bills | Thune sees progress on Medicaid MORE (I-VT), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOvernight Cybersecurity: Kushner says no collusion, improper contacts with Russia | House poised to vote on Russia sanctions | U.S., Japan to beef up cyber cooperation Mattis rips Pentagon officials for M wasted on Afghanistan camouflage Feinstein calls for Sessions to appear in front of Senate Judiciary Committee MORE (R-Iowa) and Ted CruzTed CruzCruz denies he is being considered for attorney general Cruz being considered to replace Sessions: report GOP seeks to meet referee’s rules on healthcare repeal MORE (R-Texas).  It’s time for their fellow members of Congress to get on board and support this essential step.

So, before we heed the calls for more spending in the war budget, we should take a close look at how the Pentagon is spending the funds it already has.

Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.