On Wednesday March 21st, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support subcommittee said “no” to a new round of military base closings known as BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Committee). The BRAC proposal allows the Pentagon to reduce spending like any typical cash-strapped corporation. BRAC is supposed to be crucial in the DoD’s cost-cutting strategies when in reality; it has been an inefficient plan with little savings and serious consequences.
BRAC doesn’t even scratch the surface in the real amount of spending cuts the military needs to undergo. DoD’s own figures show that the 2005 BRAC saved only $1.5 billion out of a $525 billion budget. On the scale of Pentagon expenditures, that’s chicken feed. Keep in mind, the 2005 BRAC won’t yield net savings till 2018. In other words, the BRAC that starts now won’t do much to reduce the federal deficit over the next ten years. In fact, without more cuts, it will most likely probably increase the deficit.
One of the biggest push backs against decreasing military spending is backed by the claim that the military is a vehicle for job creation. The political rhetoric of military spending advocates goes like this; if we cut the military budget, we cut jobs — period.
Yet, according to a study done by for the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2011, for every billion dollars spent on military production, 11,000 jobs were created compared to the 29,000 that were created from every billion spent on education. The Pentagon is taking our jobs, not creating them and BRAC is a perfect example of dispelling this myth of job creation and protection.
The Pentagon’s budget-cutting ideas wreak maximum havoc on people while leaving hardware untouched. Besides closing bases, the Defense Department wants to cut Tricare, the military health system, and reduce other personnel costs. The Pentagon is acting like a giant corporation, downsizing its workforce and cutting their benefits in order to balance the budget on their backs.
There are common sense ways—as difficult as they may be–to decrease military spending, protect and create jobs and still keep our country safe. Inefficient as it may be, BRAC has tremendous impact potential on communities whose local economies rely on military bases, like those here in Missouri at Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood, as Sen. McCaskill mentioned. There are alternative cuts that should take higher priority to BRAC.
Though World War II ended a half century ago and the Cold War two decades back, the Pentagon still has over 200 bases in Germany and over 100 in Japan. If we closed just one-quarter of US overseas bases, we could save $80 billion dollars over the next ten years, as explained in a 2010 report by the Sustainable Defense Task Force.
Other smart, effective cuts could include:
- Scaling back our nuclear weapons arsenal The U.S. has over 5,000 nuclear warheads and the Pentagon continues to seek resources to fund these weapons.
- Promptly ending the war in Afghanistan, which costs us over $100 billion dollars a year.
- Pulling back forward-deployed troops, ships, and air wings so they can defend the United States instead of trying to police the world, control its oil shipping lanes, and encircle China.
These changes in overall military strategy would save hundreds of billions of dollars a year, not the billion here and billion there under base closings. They would help keep us out of destabilizing wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they would safeguard our troops far more seriously than today’s wars of choice.
BRAC is a flawed band-aid on an open, gushing wound. We can make cuts, big cuts, and not on the backs of working people.