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Funding a Balanced Force

February 2, 2015 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

Cutting military spending is hard but not impossible. Nearly every secretary of defense has canceled or truncated popular weapon systems, often in the face of opposition from senior military leaders and prominent members of Congress. Dick Cheney killed the Navy and Marine Corps’ A-12 Avenger attack aircraft, Donald Rumsfeld axed the Army’s Crusader artillery system and the Comanche helicopter, and Robert Gates capped the purchase of new F-22 fighters for the Air Force.

In other cases, though, Congress forces the Pentagon to buy things it doesn’t want or need: Cheney tried — and failed — to kill the V-22 Osprey. Congress may saddle the Air Force with the A-10 Thunderbolt (better known as the Warthog) for a few more years or compel the Navy to keep the aircraft carrier George Washington in service. The Pentagon is maintaining excess base capacity, partly because Congress has resisted efforts to close any in the United States since 2005.

Congress’s shortsighted parochialism could have a serious impact on military readiness. Consider, for example, the one area of the Pentagon’s budget that has remained nearly impervious to cost cutting: salaries and benefits for military personnel.

Congress’s shortsighted parochialism could have a serious impact on military readiness.”

The reasons why are obvious enough: The military is the most popular institution in America, and the men and women serving in the military are almost universally revered. Cutting the troops’ pay is about as popular as kicking Santa Claus on Christmas — but the opprobrium lasts 365 days of the year.

Still, there is broad agreement across the political spectrum that personnel costs must be reined in. A joint statement signed by over two-dozen defense experts warned, “If Congress fails to curb the growth in military compensation costs, they will continue to grow as the defense budget shrinks, crowding out funds needed for training, readiness and for the replacement of worn-out equipment.”

The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommended reforms for future service members that would ultimately result in lower personnel costs. Sen. John McCain has signaled that he would consider changes, but advocacy groups are already lobbying to maintain the status quo. Congress is likely to bend to the pressure, although it did approve modest changes in the 2015 budget.

However, there is another way to reduce military personnel costs without cutting pay and benefits for active-duty men and women: Reduce the number of active-duty troops. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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