This afternoon Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) unveiled his own proposal to reduce to deficit. The plan, which purports to reduce the deficit by over $9 trillion over the next decade, does so by cutting discretionary spending and entitlements as well as by raising some revenue and counting savings on interest payments. Included among Coburn’s cuts is over $1 trillion from the Department of Defense budget.
“It’s specific, it’s detailed, it makes hard choices,” said Coburn in a press conference at the Capitol. “But it’s necessary.”
At the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein has a good overview of the plan as a whole, and among the cuts Coburn proposes are $1.006 trillion from defense spending, the largest amount of discretionary spending cuts in the plan. That does not include reductions in spending for combat troops in Iraq or Afghanistan but does adopt “certain Fiscal Commission recommendations on weapon systems, troop levels, and military service,” as a summary of the plan outlines.
The full plan, available here, shows in more detail the proposed defense cuts. A major provision would be reforming TRICARE, the health care program for military service personnel and retirees. $115 billion would be saved from phasing out the TRICARE Prime managed care benefit over the next ten years, $26 billion from raising fees for prescription drug benefits, and $43 billion from introducing minimum out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries of TRICARE for Life, a supplement to Medicare for military retirees.
Large cuts would also come to existing and planned weapons systems:
· $79 billion from nuclear weapons programs, including reducing the size of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile force from 500 to 300 and reducing the number of ballistic nuclear submarines from 14 to 11, and delaying the purchase of new strategic bombers until after 2020.
· $25 billion from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter system, partially from the Air Force entering into a multiyear procurement agreement estimated to save $7 billion and partially from canceling procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter system for the Navy and the Marines. It will be replaced by the F/A-18 Super Hornet system, an alternative expected to save $18 billion.
· $13 billion from terminating the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program and instead updating the Patriot program.
· $6 billion from reducing the planned purchases of the V-22 Osprey for the Navy, Marines, and Special Ops.
· $35.5 billion combined from cutting back on other systems, including vehicles, aircraft, and tracking systems.
Personnel and efficiency changes serve as the biggest chunk of the over $1 trillion Coburn is looking to save. His plan incorporates the $100 billion of efficiency reforms suggested by former Defense secretary Robert Gates, in addition to reducing military personnel in Europe and Asia at savings of $69.5 billion. The plan would also return to pre-2007 levels of active personnel, reversing the so-called “Grow the Army” initiative and saving $92.5 billion. That would mean reducing active duty Army personnel from 546,400 soldiers to 482,400.
Hundreds of billions of dollars would come from various other cutbacks to programs and "general" cuts, like closing DoD-run elementary schools and reducing overseas travel for Pentagon officials.