November 24, 2014

Weigh Options to Curb Defense Spending

  • Defense spending accounts for roughly half of the portion of the budget referred to as discretionary spending, which is determined through the annual...

A new presentation by the Congressional Budget Office showcases the difficult choices lawmakers and military leaders must make over the next several years to comply with lower caps on defense spending.

The presentation shows options for downsizing the armed forces, reforming compensation, modifying TRICARE health plans and cutting weapons systems. Some specific options and their projected 10-year savings:

  • Capping increases in basic pay for military members -- $25 billion.
  • Prohibiting working-age military retirees from receiving TRICARE Prime, a health care benefit with lower co-pays than regular TRICARE -- $70 billion.
  • Replacing the F-35 joint strike fighter development program with enhanced F-16 and F-18 aircraft -- $37 billion.

To meet spending caps solely by reducing the military’s size relative to plans for 2017, the Pentagon would have to cut 10 of 66 Army brigades, 2 of 11 Marine regiments, 34 major warships out of 244, and 170 Air Force fighters out of 1,100.

Military leaders have proposed a number of cost-saving reforms for the coming year. If lawmakers continue to reject such savings, they need to find reductions elsewhere. But military leaders warn that further cuts in areas such as training and research could reduce national security.