Rep. Barny Frank (D-MA) was joined by five senators and 51 Congressional representatives in a letter to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that calls on the commission to examine the defense budget for potential savings. Frank is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and his observations are not new, but it's interesting that he got this company so near to the mid-term elections. The letter notes:
Much of these potential savings can be realized if we are willing to make an honest examination of the cost, benefit, and rationale of the extensive U.S. military commitment overseas, which in part remains a legacy of policy decisions made in the immediate aftermath of World War II and during the Cold War. Years after the Soviet threat has disappeared, we continue to provide European and Asian nations with military protection through our nuclear umbrella and the troops stationed in our overseas military bases. Given the relative wealth of these countries, we should examine the extent of this burden that we continue to shoulder on our own dime.
We repeat that we are not urging reductions that in any way would cut resources and supplies necessary to protect American troops in the field. Similarly, while we are not opposed to an honest look at efforts at reforming the way that the Department of Defense provides health care and other services to personnel, we are opposed to cuts in services and increased fees for our veterans and military retirees.
The Project on Defense Alternatives conducted a study for Rep. Frank back in the summer that outlined a trillion dollars in defense reductions. While I don't agree with all of them, it's a nice start to the necessary reductions that we all know have to be implemented sooner or later. I really fail to see the need for four Army brigades and nine Air Force wings in Europe, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It's just not justifiable, given today's environment and where the future may take us.
To make another point, this is not a call for isolationism. That's a lazy counterpoint to a complex issue. As Andrew Bacevich has pointed out in his new book "Washington Rules," our government's preponderance for global power projection drives the desire for a large military and multiple overseas deployments. We're not arguing against involvement in world affairs, but it doesn't justify such a large footprint. We would be far better off with a mobile, expeditionary capability that was stationed in the United States and a stronger emphasis on "soft power." But that's probably too sophisticated an argument for conservative hawks to understand.