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Protect American Interests with Smart and Sustainable Defense Spending

Our View

THE DEBT AND SPENDING CRISIS

With a record $6.6 trillion in spending for FY 2020, our national debt now stretches well over $28 trillion and reached its largest-ever size in relation to our economy. As major trust funds deplete over the next decade and interest payments consume larger portions of the budget, it will be more urgent than ever to put U.S. finances on a more sustainable path as we seek to offset COVID-19 relief efforts to save lives, save livelihoods, and recover stronger.

 

FISCAL HEALTH AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Overspending harms our long-term growth, materially impacting our ability to support a strong national defense. The CBO estimates every extra dollar added to our deficit crowds out 33 cents of private investment, damaging long-term growth. In order for our military to remain a top-notch fighting force capable of securing our vital interests, we cannot overspend our limited defense resources on investments not critical to those interests.

The U.S. faces formidable threats, but these pale in comparison to the historic challenges of the Cold War. Nevertheless, FY 2020’s largest-ever $738 billion defense budget continues a trend of U.S. defense spending surpassing its inflation-adjusted Cold War peak every year since 2005.

 

FOREIGN POLICY CHOICES IMPOSE COSTS THAT DETRACT FROM MORE SIGNIFICANT PRIORITIES

U.S. foreign policy choices come with real opportunity costs, both domestically and for our military.

Congress Should

Stop funding endless wars: Military engagements in far flung regions such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen carry heavy costs but have few clear objectives, are not critical to keeping us safe, and make our troops easier targets.

End OCO budget gimmicks: Stop authorizing inappropriate uses of Overseas Contingency Operations funds, which allow DOD base budget expenses to bypass budget control caps.

Support allied defensive capabilities by ending redundant programs: Our alliance relationships are important, but our prosperous European partners are better able to defend themselves than ever through NATO. Redirecting the $5.4 billion four-year annual average spent on the European Defense Initiative would promote more capable allies and fund force modernization.

Support an overdue BRAC round: With roughly 20% excess base capacity, the DOD has asking Congress for a round of Base Realignment and Closure for years. Overspending on unnecessary bases contributes to our fiscal crisis and delays needed force modernization.

Continue the DOD audit: Congress should continue to support the DOD audit, which identified over $700 million in savings last year.

Congress Should Not

Buy excess equipment: Overspending our limited resources unnecessarily damages our long-term ability to fund the defense we need. For example, the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act funded purchases of 14 more F-35s than the DoD requested, at a per unit cost of likely $100 million or more. Congress should avoid excess acquisitions in the 2022 NDAA, particularly acquisitions that are above or not even requested by DoD.

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