The Pentagon needs to stop stalling and start figuring out how to cut its budget by $50 billion annually for the foreseeable future in a way that preserves U.S. national security, defense analysts from across the political spectrum said on Thursday.
Warning that the department appeared to be clinging to the hope that Congress and the White House would eventually reverse the cuts, the analysts said the Pentagon needed to focus on factors that drive long-term cost growth, including overhead, compensation and acquisition.
“We are not getting the bang for the buck for the dollars we should in the Pentagon,” said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, who led a task force that reviewed Pentagon overhead costs for then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2010.
“If we don’t make some fundamental changes ... in about 15 years, we will not have the strongest military ... because these three ticking time bombs are eating away at the core of our defense capability,” he told a round-table at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
The Pentagon is scrambling to reduce spending by $46 billion this fiscal year after a law requiring $500 billion in defense spending cuts over the next decade took effect on March 1. The cuts came as the department was implementing a $487 billion cut over the same period that went into force last year.
The Pentagon’s 2013 budget has also been under stress because of Congress’ failure to appropriate funds for the government this year.
Congress alleviated some of those issues on Thursday when it approved funding for the government for the rest of the year. But it left in place the budget cuts required under the automatic reductions, known as sequestration.
The Pentagon welcomed the measure and postponed for two weeks a decision on how many of the nearly 800,000 civilian defense employees would have to be placed on unpaid leave for as many as 22 days during the rest of the fiscal year.