More Options

By Thomas Duffy / November 17, 2010 at 8:40 PM

Last week it was President Obama's deficit-reduction task force rolling out lots of options for getting America's finances in order; today the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force takes a crack at it, including some defense budget-cutting moves.

In a 140-page report released today, the task force recommends freezing defense spending at fiscal year 2011 levels for the next five years. The Obama administration is requesting $708 billion for FY-11.

Some of the options the task force is offering include shrinking the size of the uniformed military and canceling or slowing down several high-priced weapons programs including the Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the Virginia Class submarine and the ballistic missile defense program.

If these options are adopted, the United States would still have the most formidable military in the world, the task force argues:

Setting mission priorities and accounting for the fiscally constrained environment must be a part of defense planning discipline. After the kind of force and budgetary restructuring that we discuss here, the Task Force believes that the U.S. would have a military tailored to meet the priority missions that it will be asked to perform after the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan conclude. The options described here are based on an evaluation of the strategic and military risks that the U.S. might face in the future. The illustrative package gives top priority to counter-terror and cyber-security operations, and assigns significant priority to deterrence and reassurance, sea patrol, humanitarian relief, and peacekeeping. Conversely, the options assign low priority in the future to counterinsurgency, stabilization, and governance. The plan also provides a sizable and important hedge for conventional combat and strengthens the military “tooth” (combat forces) relative to the support “tail.” Setting these priorities allows for a reduction of 275,000 in the active duty force. Approximately 1.21 million troops would remain – a large, modern, and more deployable force than any other country in the world.

The task force is chaired by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former White House Budget Director and Federal Reserve Vice Chair Alice Rivlin.