As the Obama administration and Congress try to agree on a deal to raise the debt limit—an agreement that will inevitably involve cutting some money from the budget—they should keep in mind that they can cut $100 billion in defense spending annually and still keep our military budget at the Reagan administration’s peak Cold War levels of approximately $580 billion (all numbers adjusted for inflation unless otherwise noted). Bringing the defense budget down to the levels that existed under Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, H.W. Bush, and Clinton would require reductions of $250 billion to $300 billion annually.
The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. In fact, the graph below shows that a number of presidents from both parties carried out significant reductions in the defense budget under similar circumstances since the end of World War II.
The report identifies specific items to cut. It ends with the following hope:
Defense spending helped create the fiscal crisis facing our nation today, and defense cuts must be part of the solution. The president and Congress can continue a bipartisan tradition of restoring defense spending to sustainable, responsible levels as the United States winds down its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.Since the US spends as much as the rest of the world combined on its military, there should be plenty of room for cutbacks.