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Progressive foreign policy experts say a new Congressional Budget Office report offering three options for slashing Pentagon spending by $1 trillion over the next decade underscores the imperative to invest in programs of social uplift and climate action. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

As CBO Shows How to Cut $1 Trillion From Pentagon, Progressives Urge Spending on 'True Security'

"Saving a trillion dollars that could be devoted to preventing pandemics, addressing climate change, or reducing racial and economic injustice is no small matter."

Brett Wilkins

Progressive foreign policy experts on Thursday pointed to a new Congressional Budget Office report that concludes it is possible to slash a trillion dollars in military spending over the coming decade without reducing force effectiveness as further proof that the United States can and should prioritize investments in tackling pandemics, inequality, and the climate crisis.

"The U.S. military budget is now higher than it was at the peak of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, or the Cold War," said Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). "This report shows that there are viable options for immediate, substantial reductions to the Pentagon budget."

"We are spending far too much on the Pentagon, and too little on everything else," Koshgarian continued. "Facing a pandemic that is not yet over, decades of growing economic inequality, unaddressed systemic racism, and a climate crisis, the U.S. is in desperate need of reinvestment for true security."

Asked to "examine the effects on U.S. forces of a substantially smaller defense budget," the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it "created three broad options to illustrate the range of strategies that the United States could pursue under a budget that would be cut gradually by a total of $1 trillion, or 14%, between 2022 and 2031."

In all three options, the CBO slashed only full-time active forces, while leaving the less expensive reserves at their current levels. While acknowledging that "none of the plans are without risk," the study concludes that the Pentagon can reduce spending without sacrificing security.

According to the report:

In all three of CBO's options, units would be staffed, trained, and equipped at the same levels as they are today—there would simply be fewer units or a different combination of units. CBO did not explore approaches that would create what is called a hollow force or tiered readiness strategy, in which units are manned, equipped, or trained to lower levels than are needed to be fully operational. CBO chose to retain fully staffed units because, though personnel are expensive, partially staffed units would not be able to execute their missions, reducing the value of the U.S. threat to strike against an adversary.


William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, said in a statement that the new CBO report "is an extremely timely reminder that it is possible to provide a robust defense of the United States and its allies for considerably less money than is being contemplated by either Congress or the Biden administration."

Hartung argued that "at a time when Congress is seeking to add $24 billion to a Pentagon budget proposal that far exceeds spending at the peak of the Korean or Vietnam wars, the CBO analysis offers an opportunity to step back and take a closer look at how much is actually necessary to protect the U.S. and its allies."

"At a time when the greatest risks to our lives and livelihoods are not military in nature," Hartung continued, "saving a trillion dollars that could be devoted to preventing pandemics, addressing climate change, or reducing racial and economic injustice is no small matter."

Koshgarian at IPS added that "Pentagon cuts are eminently doable, but corporate interests and poor leadership have prevented us from making even the most obvious cuts. After 20 years of war, it's time to reexamine our security priorities and stop writing blank checks for the Pentagon and its contractors."

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