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House Prepares to Dodge the Sequester


Nan Swift
December 20, 2012

This afternoon, the House of Representatives plans to take up H.R. 6684, the Spending Reduction Act of 2012. According to the House Speaker’s website, the bill:

… replaces the president’s defense ‘sequester’ with common-sense spending cuts and reforms, and reduces the deficit by approximately $200 billion more than the original sequester. The bill focuses on stopping waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs, eliminating government slush funds (including an ObamaCare slush fund), and reducing waste and duplication in government bureaucracies.

Cutting spending, especially doing so over and above the baseline of the $109 billion in spending restraint called for in the Budget Control Act (BCA), is both laudable and urgently needed.  At the same time, rushing a bill through as part of the Fiscal Cliff package only to avoid the pending $54.7 billion defense sequester is disingenuous , demonstrating a lack of political will to make the tough calls we need to get our fiscal house in order.

Ironically, by including the sequester mechanism in the BCA back in 2011, Congress hoped that when faced with the horror of automatic spending reductions, they would collectively be forced to make exactly those hard decisions. However, the savings outlined in H.R. 6684 are again called “common sense solutions to help end waste, fraud & abuse of taxpayer money” in a write up from May found here.

This begs the question, if these are common sense solutions, why haven’t these savings already been realized? With our deficit topping $16 trillion, Congress should be making every effort to increase accountability and eliminate waste at every opportunity, not simply when it’s useful to avoid cutting pet projects and facing down the defense industry.

While the additional savings from H.R. 6684 will help slow our growing debt, that doesn’t mean that the savings to be found in cutting spending in other areas such as entitlements and in this case, defense, should be left on the table.

As NTU has pointed out again and again, there are billions in savings to be had by going after under performing, unnecessary, and wasteful defense programs.  NTU has written about these reforms here, here, and here.

Last year NTU teamed up with the U.S. Public Interest Group (U.S. PIRG) to find over $1 TRILLION in savings that the right and left of center groups could easily agree on. The list included, “$428.8 billion in savings from ending low-priority or unnecessary military programs.” Surely, programs that such strange bedfellows can agree should be headed for the chopping block makes them every bit as much “common sense” savings as those included in H.R. 6684.

More recently, Senator Coburn (R-OK) released his “Department of Everything” study that found:

The recommendations outlined in Department of Everything could save as much as $67.9 billion or more over ten years without cutting any Army brigade combat teams, Navy combat ships, or Air Force fighter squadrons.

Just as the “Spending Reduction Act of 2012” takes aim at real waste that should be immediately eliminated, Sen. Coburn found the Department of Defense equally ripe for serious reform. Among the many wasteful practices, duplicative programs, and unnecessary spending the Senator discovered:

… the Navy recently funded research examining what the behavior of fish can teach us about democracy while also developing an app to alert iPhone users when the best time is to take a coffee break. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded a study last year examining how to make it easier to produce silk from wild cocoons in Africa and South America.9 Both the Navy and the Air Force funded a study that concluded people in New York use different jargon on Twitter than those living in California.

The entire report is well worth a read, especially by our Representatives in the House this afternoon. When legislators go to vote on H.R. 6684, they should know that voting to eliminate yet another ObamaCare slush fund, preventing fraudulent use of the child refundable tax credit, and cutting SNAP waste are all going to help the bottom line.

But those billions can only be the beginning, especially when our debt reaches well into the trillions. There are real and immediate savings to be had by taking a closer look at how our defense dollars are spent. As taxpayers and our economy approach a critical turning point, it demonstrates a lack of leadership and seriousness about our fiscal reality for Congress to continue avoiding the tough decisions they were elected to make.

 


 

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