Study urges Pentagon cuts as authorization work begins

Organizations recommend shifting $40.5 billion to Homeland Security Department budget.

As House and Senate authorizers meet this week to mark up the fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill, two Washington think tanks are advocating $53 billion in cuts in top weapons systems.

The bulk of that money -- $40.5 billion -- should be transferred to Homeland Security, nonproliferation and foreign aid accounts, according to a report released Tuesday by the Center for Defense Information, and Foreign Policy in Focus.

In their 49-page study, the organizations called on the military to reduce buys of pricey platforms, slow development of missile defense systems and overhaul defense procurement and accounting systems -- all issues expected to take center stage during the defense authorization markups. Specifically, the report recommends slashing the Bush administration's fiscal 2006 requests for the Army's Future Combat Systems, the Air Force's F/A-22 Raptor, and the Navy's DD(X) destroyer.

"Money spent on the nonmilitary side also helps security and is equally important to addressing the threats out there," said Marcus Corbin, a senior analyst at Center for Defense Information and one of the report's authors. Both organizations advocate for a smaller defense budget and a focus on diplomacy.

The two organizations released a similar study last year recommending major cuts in seven weapons systems -- six of which ultimately were canceled by the Pentagon or Congress, or were included in a departmentwide proposal to cut defense budgets through 2011.

"The administration's proposal to put the brakes on some major military procurement programs represents a tacit acknowledgement of the need to make choices within the procurement budget," according to the report.

The cuts reflected a departure from a whatever-it-takes defense budgeting mentality that has been prevalent since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the report states. Corbin said he is realistic that Congress will not transfer $50 billion from defense accounts this year.

"We are building support for changes in the longer term," he said. "This provides a road map to do that and a rationale for it. It is possible that one high-profile weapon might be canceled at some point." The organizations have "shopped around" drafts of the report on Capitol Hill, including to the Progressive Caucus.

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