By SUZANNE DERSHOWITZ
Today the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) released updated recommendations for reducing wasteful national security spending. After analyzing the proposed national security budget, we crunched the latest numbers and this time our recs would reduce the deficit by nearly $700 billion from fiscal year (FY) 2013 to 2022—even more savings than before.
The House Armed Services Committee will mark up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2013 tomorrow, and the Senate markup is scheduled for the week of May 21.
Now that U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is drawing down, it is clear that any serious proposal to diminish the U.S. deficit must include cuts to the national security budget. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), current national security spending is higher than at any point during the Cold War and accounts for more than half of all discretionary spending. Military spending at the Department of Defense (DoD) has nearly doubled since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
Our recommendations for smarter spending center on cutting flawed, costly weapons systems, canceling or delaying nuclear programs we don’t need, and limiting out-of-control contract spending. We found cheaper yet equally effective alternatives that won’t risk U.S. security. Read on for a rundown of the highlights.
The Navy’s Close-to-Shore Combat Ship
POGO and TCS recommend canceling the Lockheed Martin variant of the Littoral (close-to-shore) Combat Ship (LCS), which would save taxpayers a minimum of $187.2 million over the next ten years. A recent POGO investigation revealed that the Lockheed variant has been plagued with equipment problems, serious cracks, and engine failures—even though it costs $12 million more per ship than the General Dynamics variant. Building two different variants isn’t the most efficient approach: the two versions of the LCS have vastly different designs, so sailors who work on one ship aren’t properly trained to work on the other, driving up personnel costs and decreasing military readiness and flexibility.
The Nuclear Project without a Cause
POGO and TCS also recommend canceling the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. After over a decade of planning, CMRR-NF, a proposed boondoggle of a nuclear weapons facility aimed at ramping up U.S. production of plutonium pits, is estimated to cost a staggering $3.7 billion to $5.9 billion—at least ten times more than its initial cost estimate. However, as POGO has argued, a growing body of scientific evidence and expert testimony show that increased plutonium pit production is not necessary for national security and actually flies in the face of a U.S. agreement to reduce deployed nuclear weapons until at least 2021. Even the National Nuclear Security Administration (the agency that would oversee the construction of CMRR-NF) has told the Obama Administration that we don’t need this facility.
We also added a new recommendation this time: cutting four nuclear submarines from the next-generation SSBN(X) fleet. The SSBN(X) program is estimated to cost a staggering $347 billion over the life of the 12 new submarines the Navy is planning to buy. The fleet can be reduced to eight while still serving as a robust deterrent—under the New START agreement the U.S. can deploy over 1,000 warheads on submarines. Eliminating four subs from the fleet would save at least $18 billion in operations, maintenance, research, and procurement costs over just the next decade, and would save up to $122 billion over the 50-year lifecycle of the ballistic missile submarine program.
The Most Expensive Weapons Program Ever
In addition to these crucial recs to rein in wasteful spending on nuclear weapons programs, POGO and TCS recommend replacing the Navy and Marine models of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. That would save almost $62 billion over the next ten years. Estimated to cost nearly $200 million each, the Navy and Marine models of the military’s newest fighter plane are the most expensive variants of the most expensive DoD procurement in history. The Pentagon recently relaxed the performance requirements for the long-delayed, overpriced stealth fighter. Yet, the Super Hornet has capabilities that rival the JSF at a much lower cost—$65 million each. Super Hornets are not just cheaper in terms of procurement, but also have significantly lower operating costs.
The Shadow Government
Perhaps the biggest savings to be had are in the area of service contracting. POGO’s Scott Amey busted many myths of service contracting in his March testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. The first myth “involves the notion that when the federal government outsources work to contractors, contractor employees are not part of ‘big government.’” Amey went on to point out that “many (contractors) are retired federal employees, are paid with taxpayer dollars, work inside government offices, and/or perform government missions.” The federal government’s increasing reliance on contractors, most of which work on national security-related work and cost on average nearly twice as much as the federal workers who do the same job, is driving budgets through the roof. POGO and TCS recommend cutting both DoD and non-DoD national security federal service contracts by 15 percent—which would reduce the deficit by $372 billion and $33 billion respectively over the next ten years.
You can be sure POGO will be following the markup closely in both the House and the Senate in the coming weeks. Check back to find out our take on the NDAA for FY 2013 after it gets reported out of committee. Read our full list of recommendations here.
Suzanne Dershowitz is POGO's public policy fellow.