Here’s an idea: Rather than focus on wounding domestic programs that help people and families, communities and businesses, let’s cut where elected officials have maneuvering room: the Pentagon budget. Each year, Congress appropriates more than half of discretionary spending to the Department of Defense, wars and nuclear weapons spending. Even without deficit reduction pressure, this overspending takes dollars away from needed domestic priorities that strengthen our economy and ensure that America can compete in the world marketplace. This isn’t making our nation more secure. As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Dempsey put it, “It makes no sense at all for us as a nation to have an extraordinarily capable military instrument of power if we are economically disadvantaged around the world.”

Also, many tax dollars going into this enormous Pentagon budget are wasted on last century’s  security strategy. Over the next decade, we are slated to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a nuclear weapons arsenal built for another era. Expanding our production of nuclear weapons and their expensive delivery systems is at odds with our efforts to constrain nuclear weapons development elsewhere in the world. These weapons are simply irrelevant to support our troops on the battlefield or to address 21st century threats.

We also seem to be addicted to consuming deficit money on wars. Nearly nine years in Iraq have been joined by more than a decade in Afghanistan, while sabre-rattling over Iran heats up. Whether measured merely in direct financial cost, or in the broader and more profound cost of lives lost and damaged, we cannot afford to be a nation perpetually at war.

Fiscal conservatives like Rep. Ryan must agree that the Pentagon, which swallows up such a large percentage of our budget, must be at least as carefully scrutinized for waste as other government programs. Right now the Pentagon does not even pass an audit to show how it spends our tax dollars. Some supporters of the Pentagon and their contractors tout money to the Pentagon as a jobs’ program. War should never be viewed as such a program. Sensible national security jobs make sense, and no member of Congress can ignore the effect of policy decisions on jobs. Nonetheless, economists have shown that federal investments in non-military sectors--like education, healthcare and clean energy--create more jobs than military spending. Let’s invest in those jobs.

Rep. Ryan, unchecked spending on the Pentagon at the expense of domestic programs that support people struggling in this economy negatively affects your own constituents, and the entire country. Let’s put this nation on reasonable footing when it comes to national security and fiscal responsibility. Let’s have sensible cuts to the Pentagon budget.

Susan Shaer is executive director of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), and co-chair of Win Without War.