Bipartisan coalition calls for reforming sequester’s defense cuts

February 26, 2013

A diverse collection of 22 interest groups has signed a new letter urging Congress to make cuts to the Defense Department on the scale of the sequester but to shift the cuts to different areas of the defense budget.

"We and other military experts believe we can realize savings of at least $50 billion to $100 billion per year over 10 years in the Pentagon budget -- without compromising national security," reads the letter, an early copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. "In fact, such savings will make us safer since our security depends on a sound strategy and a strong economy."

Those signing the letter include conservative groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union, as well as left-leaning groups like the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Credo and Progressive Democrats of America.

The groups say that there are plenty of pork-barrel projects and outdated Cold War-era leftovers in the defense budget but that members of Congress have been unwilling to discuss ways to target them rather than instituting the across-the-board cuts contained in the sequester.

The sequester calls for $46 billion in defense cuts in fiscal year 2013, out of the $85 billion mandated in total cuts. It would cut $454 billion total over the next nine years.

The groups signing the letter aren't all in agreement about which potential cuts are best. Instead, the letter identifies some alternative areas to cut in the defense budget and how much money would be saved.

Among the ideas proposed by the coalition are stopping the purchase of outdated or unnecessary vehicles, ships and and aircraft, cutting the civilian workforce and/or service members, and downsizing military headquarters.

"We, the leaders of the undersigned organizations, may not agree on many things, but we all agree on this: The time has come to reduce wasteful and ineffective Pentagon spending to make us safer," the letter states. "Our organizations believe that sequester might not be the best way to reshape Pentagon spending, but that should not serve as an excuse to avoid fundamental reforms."

The letter is signed by the following 22 groups: Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for America's Future, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Cost of Government Center, Credo, Freedom Action, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Priorities Project, National Taxpayers Union, Peace Action, Progressive Democrats of America, Project On Government Oversight, Republican Liberty Caucus, R Street, Take Back Washington, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, USAction, U.S. PIRG, Women’s Action for New Direction and Win Without War.

The entire letter can be read here.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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