New National Strategy and Budget Cuts

There was an interesting interactive exercise over at the New York Times this week, in which individuals were all an opportunity to make decisions on how to reduce Defense spending.  A group of us, all ground pounders, were able to very quickly get to about 750 Billion and our assessment with little negative impact on our defense capabilities.  Getting to a trillion was a little harder and required some deep cuts but fundamentally left all the services capable.  Just sitting down now, I was able to get to 1 Trillion plus.

Here are my choices, the ones I choose are in red font.  There are some comments about some of my choices or those I did not choose.

Increase Tricare Prime fees for military retirees younger than 65

The annual fee for family coverage would about double to $1,100.*

$28 billion

Raise co-pay for drugs under Tricare

Would increase various co-payments for drugs for dependents of active-duty military personnel as well as for military retirees and their families. (It would not affect active-duty service members.) A 30-day prescription for a generic drug filled at a retail pharmacy would cost $15, up from what had been $3.**

$26 billion

Exclude military retirees from Tricare Prime

Military retirees and their dependents would not be permitted to enroll in Tricare Prime, the most generous Tricare option. Instead they could enroll in Tricare Standard or Extra.  Maximum annual out-of-pocket costs would increase to $7,500 per family, from $3,000.

$105 billion

Institute an annual fee of $200 for Tricare-for-Life

Would institute an annual $200 fee for military retirees older than 65 who transition to Tricare-for-Life, a supplement to Medicare that is now free.

$6.7 billion

Introduce minimum out-of-pocket requirements under Tricare-for-Life

Tricare-for-Life would not cover the first $550 of cost-sharing payments under Medicare and would cover only half of the next $4,950 in such payments.

$43 billion

While Tri-care is nice; I want the military medical system to be there first and foremost for the active duty troops.  Before anyone gets their panties in a knot, this will effect me as I am a retiree.

Cut back military retirement pay for new entrants.

A recruit joining now who works for 20 years would not receive retirement pay until age 60; it would be 40 percent of the average of the last five years of salary. Currently, military personnel can retire after 20 years and immediately receive 50 per cent of the average of the last three years of salary.

$86.5 billion

Change military retirement system for new entrants to a private-sector 401(k) model

A new entrant could make $16,500 in tax-deferred annual payments to a retirement fund and $5,500 in annual tax-deferred “catch-up” contributions for those over 50. Vesting would occur after four years.

$35 billion

There is a going to be a change for future service members.  I actually would like to see the option of a deferred annuity at age 60 or a lump sum payment based a computation based on the numbers of years of service based on the last three years of service.  I have given some thought to this area and will publish it at some point in the future.

Cap increases in basic military pay

Military wage increases from 2012 to 2015 would be capped at half a percentage point below an average of private-sector wage increases. Since 1982, military pay has risen considerably faster than private-sector pay.

$17 billion

Freeze salaries of civilian work force at the Pentagon for three years

Would represent a pay cut, in effect, because of inflation. In 2009 and 2010, Pentagon employees received a raise of about 6 percent, more than the rise in inflation or the raises of private-sector workers.

$15.5 billion

Change military compensation calculation

Would slow the rate of growth in tax-exempt military allowances for housing and food by combining them with basic pay. The vast majority of military personnel receives these allowances, which have grown at a faster rate than basic military wages.

$55 billion

Congress has been overly generous to service members not just in the last ten years but really for last fifteen years often giving a much higher pay raise than the Pentagon has requested.  Federal Pay for all civilians is already frozen, so let’s not treat DoD civilians any different, they are not paid any more than other Federal civilians.  This would effect me as I am a Department of the Army Civilian.

Reduce ground forces — Army and Marines — to 657,400, a cut of 15 percent, over next 10 years

By 2020, there would be 482,400 troops in the Army, from 570,000 today. Marines would number 175,000 from 202,000 now. Reducing ground troops would constrict the Pentagon if it faced two major conflicts at the same time.

$147 billion

This shows how little some of the so-called experts know about the service.  The Marine Corps is not the same as the Army, General Amos has clearly defined the role of the Marine Corps as a Medium weight force designed for expeditionary operations.  Given the emerging Joint Air-Sea doctrine the USMC should be in my mind largely exempt from any cuts, therefore the achieved goal of 387 Billion probably would not be met, more likely around 75 Billion.  (SWAG)

Reduce Army and Marines to 505,000, a cut of 35 percent, over next 10 years

By 2020, there would be 360,000 troops in the Army, from 570,000 today. Marines would reduce to 145,000, from 202,000.

$387 billion

Reduce Pentagon civilian work force to 630,000, a 20 percent cut, over next 10 years

The reductions would come chiefly through attrition. Many military analysts say a smaller military requires fewer civilian support personnel and that a reduction of 20 percent is smaller than cuts made between 1991 and 2001.

$73 billion

Again this potentially effect both me and my wife as we are both DACs.

Reduce Pentagon civilian work force to 550,000, a 30 percent cut, over next 10 years

These staff reductions would also come largely through attrition, but some analysts say such deep cuts would risk serious shortages and may eventually require hiring more expensive contractors.

$105 billion

Replace F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with F-16s and F/A-18s

Some analysts say that upgraded F-16 and F/A-18 fighter jets are sufficient to meet foreseeable threats, but those opposed say F-16s and F/A-18s lack the stealth features to evade enemy radar.

$48 billion

Cancel Navy and Marine Corps Joint Strike Fighter and replace with F/A-18E/Fs

Instead of canceling the entire F-35 program, this would be a compromise, keeping the Air Force version but canceling the variants planned by the Navy and Marine Corps.

$6 billion

The Joint Strike Fighter reminds me of the failed TFX later the F111, when you try to design something to be all things to all services, it is like asking a committee to design a horse, you end up with a camel!

Reduce aircraft carriers to 10 from 11, and Navy air wings to 9 from 10

An air wing consists of as many as 70 aircraft, including fighter jets, surveillance aircraft and helicopters, that operate from a carrier. This could reduce American flexibility in the Pacific.

$7 billion

I ain’t the smartest person in the world but it seems as the Navy is going to be one carrier down when the Enterprise is retired for at least three years, then maybe we can do it for a while longer.  There is no other nation that has as many carriers as the US.  I would much rather spend the money on more nuclear attack subs with TLAM capability.

Reduce Navy ship buying

Would cancel the purchases of five amphibious ships, retire six Ticonderoga-class cruisers, buy one instead of two Virginia-class submarines per year and buy 12 instead of 55 littoral combat ships.

$55 billion

This would be dangerous in my mind, we need not only to develop new classes of ships but more importantly we need to maintain our shipbuilding capabilities.

Cancel V-22 Osprey in FY 2016, stop total procurement at 363 aircraft

The Marines love the Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, but at $70 million per aircraft, it is expensive and has a mixed history.

$8 billion

I am told that the Osprey is hard to maintain, expensive to maintain.  Someone give me a good reason why I am wrong.  The USMC would do better to buy more CH53K.

Delay Army Ground Combat Vehicle until 2025

Would delay for a dozen years a new combat vehicle that is larger, more secure and more advanced than the Army’s existing tanks.

$6 billion

As an retired Army Officer it pains me to say this but until the Army can clearly define what it wants put a halt to any more spending of money for systems that are never fielded.  Keep upgrading the M1 and M2.  General comment about procurement, the Army’s inability to field a system successfully in the last dozen years is proof positive they could fuck up a wet dream in a whore house.

Cancel the Air Force’s “Next Generation” long-range stealth bomber

The new bomber, which is in the early stages of development and is not expected to go into service until the 2020s, would be stealthier and have a longer range than the existing B-52, B-2 and B-1 bombers.

$38 billion

See below and you will understand.

Cancel the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical and the Joint

Tactical Radio System

The Army’s Warfighter Information Network would provide faster and more secure communications for troops on the battlefield and the Joint Tactical Radio System would allow for better communications between different types of military radios. Both are upgrades to existing systems.

$15 billion

Eliminate nuclear weapons from bomber aircraft, the “third leg” of the nuclear triad

Would eliminate one of the three delivery possibilities for nuclear weapons, bomber aircraft, while retaining nuclear weapons based on land and on submarines.

$39 billion

Which system do you think is most vulnerable to not getting to the target. . .the manned bomber.

Curtail experimental national missile defense programs

President Obama has reconfigured missile defense to take advantage of existing technologies. This would eliminate some of the most expensive experimental programs that would not reach fruition for decades.

$30 billion

Terminate the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) and the Precision Tracking Space System (PTSS)

MEADS is an air and missile defense system under joint development by the United States, Germany and Italy that is intended to replace the Patriot system, but the United States, Germany and Italy have no plans to buy it. PTSS, under design by the Missile Defense Agency, is intended to be a constellation of satellites that track enemy ballistic missiles.

$13 billion

Reduce military personnel in Europe and Asia from 150,000 to 100,000

Proponents argue that conventional ground forces stationed in Western Europe and some islands in Asia were originally part of a Cold War strategy.

$69.5 billion

I would go even further.  Leave personnel in Asia, Japan, Australia, Guam, and Korea—all of these would be one year hardship tours no accompied tours!  Rotate units into the Middle East as required.  Remove EUCOM, AFRICCOM, and their Component HQs from Europe to CONUS.  No longer permanently station units in Germany, rotate in on six-month rotations.  Don’t hand me this crap that this a great opportunity for American to learn something about European culture.  Most Americans live in American Ghettoes and have little or no contact with anyone in Europe.

Consolidate Defense Department commissaries and retail stores

The Defense Department operates a chain of more than 250 commissaries, or groceries, on military bases around the world, plus three separate chains of retail stores. This would reduce government subsidies for the commissaries, raising some prices, and consolidate the management of the commissaries and retail stores.

$9 billion

Cut most college tuition assistance for active-duty military

In 2009, the Tuition Assistance Program reimbursed 377,000 service members up to $4,500 each for college courses taken while on active duty. This would largely eliminate the benefit, which is also available for active-duty service members in the G.I. Bill.

$5 billion

Close Defense Department elementary and secondary schools

Would close the 66 Department of Defense elementary and secondary schools serving 26,000 students at 16 military installations in the United States. Many of the schools are in poor condition, although closing them would be a hardship for students who live on remote bases far from local public schools, or where public schools are in worse condition than the on-base schools.

$10 billion

Reduce Defense Department travel costs

Would reduce Defense Department domestic and international travel by about 15 per cent, to some $7.5 billion per year, in large part by lengthening tours at military bases from four to six years instead of one to three years.

$14 billion

Replace military personnel who perform commercial activities

Would replace 88,000 military personnel who are working in supply, transportation, communications and support jobs — including trash pick-ups at bases — with 62,000 civilians, who would be paid less.

$53 billion

This would be a mistake, as many of these jobs are the type that are required in the early days of any campaign, particularly transportation, communications, and military police.  In the case of a requirement to use these assets in and operational environment, these types of positions can easily and quickly be contracted.

Standardize spending on base support

Would set a consistent standard for per troop spending on support services (like grasscutting and electricity) at military bases, which now varies from a low of $10,800 per servicemember in the Marine Corps to $17,500 per servicemember in the Air Force.

$20 billion

We all know that the Air Force builds the All Ranks Club, the Golf Course, and then the Air Field; but there does need to be parity in base operations.  No one service should be better or worse than another.

Audit the Pentagon

The Defense Department is one of the few federal agencies that has never passed an independent audit of its finances. Proponents of this option say that if Congress forced an audit, it would be possible for the Pentagon to save less than half of 1 percent of its base budget each year, or $25 billion over a decade.

$25 billion

Reduce recruiting expenses

Recruitment spending could be cut as wars draw down and ground forces shrink.

$5 billion

This would be stupid.

Cut military intelligence spending by 3 percent and then freeze it for 10 years

Would remove some duplication between military and non-military intelligence roles and responsibilities.

$26 billion

Intelligence is one of the hardest areas to grow quickly.  Cutting intelligence put all of us at risk.  Enough said.

Cut 10 percent of the research and development budget

Would direct the Pentagon to cut 10 percent of its research and development funding for two years, then freeze it at that level for the next eight years. Proponents say this is not an onerous cut, but opponents say research and development is vital for future technologies and to keep the United States ahead of its adversaries, particularly in cyber warfare and intelligence gathering.

$79 billion

Any cut to R&ED would be stupid.  The next game changing technology may be at risk.

Scale back military bands

The Pentagon spends more than $300 million a year on what are now 154 military bands.  Historically bands offered morale to troops on the battlefield. This proposal would cut their funding by two-thirds.

$0.2 billion

I am sorry, but every General and Admiral does not need their own band.  Let me offer this; for the Army; Pershing Own, and sufficient bands to support the needs of the Army.  Somebody please explain to me why AMC needs a band?  I have a friend who commands an USAR RRC, he has five bands in one RRC.  Every State does not need a National Guard band.  I am sure we can figure out a way to cut the number but at the same time provide support for the necessary ceremonies.

Without trying too hard or cutting bone and muscle, I believe I have found ways to cut 1.37 Trillion.  The National Security Strategy laid out by the President on Thursday ask us to cut $450 Billion—my guess no body will notice.

My cuts $1,137 billion

253% of $450 billion goal



  1. TrueBlue says:

    I agree with most of what you suggested, with a few exceptions or variations.

    1) Reduction of Navy carriers. Given the unwillingness of our leaders to make use of the nuclear option, and the fact our enemies KNOW that, I would rather make a reduction in our nuclear subs than the carrier force. The budget cut wouldn't be as great, but with China building carriers themselves now it is only a matter of time before they can equal our numbers and have pilots capable of take-off and landing on them.

    The Chinese have gotten rather good at surprising our intelligence folks lately, their recent stealth fighter a prime example, so discounting their ability to catch up quickly would be a horrible mistake. There WILL be a fight with China in the next 40-50 years over control of the Pacific. Carrier battlegroups provide a threat that people can see and don't require the use of nuclear weapons, meaning the leadership is more likely to make use of them.

    2) Reduction in Navy ship-buying. The Amphibs especially are needed. The ones we currently have in service are VERY old. I served aboard one for 3 years, it was falling apart. Most of the ones currently in service are that way, they send them to drydock every now and then for an overhaul, but really they need to just be replaced with newer versions. They are the primary transport for our Marine forces and the majority of their equipment.

    3) Reduction in military personnel in Europe and Asia. I agree with your reduction response more than your initial suggestion. Remove all forces from Europe, they can defend their own dang selves. I wouldn't even send our people over there on 6-month stints, joint exercises only. The Pacific region definitely needs to maintain our troop support for similar reasons as the carrier response above.

    4) Closing the on-base schools is a good idea in general, but attention should be paid to location of the nearest school, and whether or not the on-base school is performing better than the school those students would be transferred to or not.

    5) I generally agree in reducing the amount of money spent on a per soldier basis for the bases, however I work on an AF base that was recently part of the Joint Base program, with the Army being put in charge overall. The condition of the AF base has obviously declined after a very short amount of time. I would have to give this more time before I would agree those kinds of costs need to be cut across the board. We do not want our bases looking like ghettos, which sadly, most of the Army bases I've been on do over the majority of the base.

    6) I agree cutting intelligence would be a bad idea overall, however I also believe that we could benefit by greater integration of the intelligence services. There is still a LOT of hostility not just between the services when it comes to sharing intel, but between the NSA, CIA, and the rest of the alphabet soup of intel agencies we have. In my opinion all land-based intel operations (with exception of the forward deployed locations) should be integrated between all the services, making use of Annex offices on the individual bases and ships to assign more localized personnel. Annex offices could be made up of members of any of the services, or be specific to whichever service owned the base that Annex was on.

    This would allow more comaraderie between the services as well as better information sharing since all information would be gained from the same central location and disseminated at approx the same time. The same could be done for our alphabet offices to cut from the overall federal budget.

  2. Maj W DC says:

    Great analysis – you've helped me put this into perspective with so many moving parts – thanks Townie

  3. Stephanie Mello says:

    Interesting read and amazing that you were able to do in one sitting what Congress, the Senate, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Presidential advisors and so many other higher paid staff could not do in a year.

    While I agree on some and disagree on others, and fully recognize that this is the defense budget addressed within, I'd really like to see what cuts the President is taking in his personal staff, travels and other expenses authorized by the office.

    I'd like to see Congress and the Senate revise their retirement plan that allows them to gather a stipend after only one term in office while Soldiers and civil servants must work minimum 20 years to obtain theirs. I believe that they (C/S) are classified as civil servants too are they not?

    I'd rather see the welfare program revamped and capped to a maximum of children paid for before I'd see the military suffer a pay cut or freeze.

    I'd rather see work for welfare programs that allow recipients to garner education and training for life skills that would remove them from the program after a set period of time as opposed to a allowing a lifetime of support perpetuating generation after generation of "free money" to them (some states are/have initiated this already but many are lagging behind).

    After the first Gulf War, the military forces were reduced significantly taking us to a service that was smaller in number than the actual number deployed to the Gulf. Since we are back up to that pre-Gulf War population (or close to it), it would seem obvious that reduction of the force is not feasible or viable as long as we continue our role of global policing.

    I am not the smartest in these matters, I am not a logistical genius or political analyst, nor do I have anything invested in the whole political arena other than I am a veteran, the widow of a veteran, the mother of an AD Soldier and an American civil servant who wants to see our country become again the global military, monetary and respected nation that we once were. God bless all of us – we're going to need it.

  4. All good points but not mentioned is the Navy' s "Green Fleet" initiative. The Navy intends on investing millions to develop biomass fuels as a substitute for its fossil based fuels. The goal is reduce crude oil based fuels by 50% by 2016 and with substitute renewable fuels.

    The Navy is the largest consumer of diesel fuel in the world and currently there is no producer that can meet that volume. The recent contract for renewable fuel with Dynamic and Solazyme offer mere "drop in the bucket" with an estimated cost of $ 26.00 per gallon.

    Many in the industry would argue that energy development might be best left to DOE and consolidate all armed service efforts for renewable fuels. This project is extremely expensive and not competitive from a cost basis to crude oil based fuels.