Dem think tank: Cut $1T from defense — but not through sequestration

A new report from a liberal think tank says the federal government should cut defense spending by $1 trillion over the next decade — just not through sequestration.

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The Center for American Progress report released Wednesday says that the sequester’s across-the-board cuts are bad policy. But the report argues that the $1 trillion topline figure that would be cut if sequestration occurs is more than achievable.

“The members of our Task Force agree with the near-universal consensus that sequestration is more about political maneuvering than sound budgeting practice,” the report’s authors write.

“But we argue that the amount of cuts to the Pentagon budget mandated by both parts of the debt deal is readily achievable with no sacrifice to our security — if the cuts are done in a thoughtful manner over the next decade.”

The report comes after months of political fighting over sequestration in the presidential and congressional campaigns, even as most Democrats and Republicans want to do away with the $500 billion across-the-board cuts.

The size of the military is going to be a major part of the fiscal cliff debate during the lame-duck session that includes numerous big-ticket items.

As part of last year’s debt-limit deal, the Pentagon is already planning for $487 billion in cuts over the next decade. Another $500 billion would be cut across the board through sequestration, which begins on Jan. 2.

Defense officials have said the sequestration cuts would be devastating and hollow out the military, and Republicans have repeatedly attacked Obama for threatening the military with the cuts.

But the report argues that the threat to the military under sequestration is the nature of the across-the-board cuts hitting every program, not the dollar amount.

The report notes that deficit-reduction commissions like Simpson-Bowles have also recommended cuts of roughly $1 trillion to Pentagon spending. That level of budget cuts, the authors note, would reduce Pentagon spending to 2006 levels.

“It would bring the military budget back to its inflation-adjusted level of FY 2006 — close to the highest level since World War II and the second-to-last year of the George W. Bush administration. Was anyone worried that we were disarming ourselves then?” the report says.

The argument from the Center for American Progress is one that’s been made by Pentagon spending critics since sequestration became a possibility last year after the congressional supercommittee failed to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

That argument, however, has largely been drowned out amid the political fighting over the across-the-board cuts, even as both parties have said the cuts should not occur.

Pentagon officials have said the military budget should not be cut any more than the $487 billion already planned for, while congressional defense leaders like Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) have suggested an additional $100 billion could be cut from the military in a deficit-reduction deal.

Some Republicans, including Mitt Romney and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), say the $487 billion is too much and want to roll those cuts back. 

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