7 Huge Boondoggles That The Military Should Cut Right Now

Photo: SAMUEL KING JR./U.S. AIR FORCE

Lost in the apocalyptic talk about automatic $50 billion cuts to the military is the simple fact that there is plenty of fat to cut.Starting with some of the more bombastic weapons programs: it cost the Pentagon $400 billion just to research and develop the F-35, a plane that currently can’t even fly.

Surely, with a nip here and a tuck there, the Pentagon can find its way without starving to death.

Good lord, stop paying for F-35s — savings over 10 years *chah-ching* $472 billion.

The U.S. needs to cut 500 of those from the defence budget over 10 years. The Pentagon plans to buy roughly 2,400 F-35s. At a cost of 200 million per (without including research and development costs which would push it to 300), the total program comes to almost all of what the the government needs to trim.

The stricken bird, however, has few friends, all of them powerful. The plans to buy the plane won't likely be cut for a few reasons, all of them having to do with money (national defence is of little concern).

Like most defence projects, the F-35 has 1,300 suppliers in 45 states, and accounts for 133,000 jobs -- which also makes it politically expedient for dovish Democrats in F-35-supplier districts to vote 'no' on cutting the program.

Cut the hideous Littoral Combat Ship.

Aside from being ugly, it should be cut because its terrible. The military doesn't even expect it to survive in combat.

The ship's price tag is an incredible 460 million per (on the low end). Multiply that by 20, the amount of orders, and we have about 9 billion in savings.

Cut the M1 Abrams Tank ... completely.

No one's fought a serious tank battle in decades, and it's likely that no one ever will again.

Sure the Abrams tanks helped Marines take Fallujah, but basically because they ran over houses in which insurgents had hunkered down. If it's just about running into buildings, we have other vehicles that can do that.

The numbers here are a bit hard to figure out (how many tanks, times how many people operate those tanks, times their salaries and fees, etc.), but there's certainly savings somewhere in there.

Ostensibly, the U.S. could totally shelve the tank, keeping about 100 active for contingency operations.

Cut the Ground Combat Vehicle.

Again, America is not fighting in large scale conventional wars, and the enemies who can fight them don't even have the ability to put thousands of troops on U.S. shores.

Paul Barret of Bloomberg Businessweek broke down the numbers, and it turns out the government would save around $32 billion.

Stop spending so much money in foreign countries.

Overseas expenditures account for 34 per cent of total Pentagon spending, says Dr. Anita Dancs, research director at the national priorities project.

That's right, her 2009 study concluded that overseas expenditures totaled about $250 billion per year. Granted, that was in the middle of Obama's Afghan surge. Last year Bloomberg reported that the Afghan war cost $7.8 billion per month during the surge, about $96 billion a year.

That means there's $150 billion spent on other foreign operations, to include the 600-plus government-owned foreign sites.

Cut the carrier strike groups down to nine.

The cost of deploying a carrier strike group is approximately $300 million. Cutting back deployments also cuts back on maintenance and a number of other secondary and tertiary costs.

But the bottom line is: it's just not necessary to deploy so many strike groups.

Convert all U.S. fleets to biofuel.

The Pentagon consumes about 650,000 barrels of oil per day. (The U.S. consumes, as a country, 18 million barrels of oil.)

If the Navy, which burns a third of the Pentagon's stash, were to convert even half of its fleet to biofuels, presumably costs and prices would drop, both at the pump and for the government.

The long-term outcome is staggering though: as one former Marine general told me, 'If we could reduce our reliance on oil, we reduce the necessity for the military and government to cavort with unsavory state actors, and so, also reduce the exposure of America's sons and daughters to conflict areas.'

Now let's total up the damage ...

Cuts:

F-35 = $472 billion

Littoral Combat Ship = $8 billion.

Ground Combat Vehicle = $32 billion.

Cut a modest third from the overseas budget = $83 billion ($830 over 10 years)

Fuel costs from new energy integration and tank costs are tough to calculate, so we'll leave them out.

Total over 10 years = $1.4 trillion

Consequently, the military only calls for $500 billion over 10 years, so as not to 'shock' the economy. As we've shown, this mark isn't nearly as difficult to hit as politicians convey.

Now that you know what should be cut ...

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