Report: Cut Military Personnel, Retirement and Health Care to Fund Alternative Energy, “Climate Security”

The Center for American Progress, a prominent Washington research center associated with Democratic party causes, is calling for a broad reduction in military pay and benefits, while increasing spending on alternative energy and focus on “climate security.”

Their report, Rebalancing Our National Security – The Benefits of Implementing a Unified Security Budget was published on 31 October.

Among the report’s key findings and recommendations:

The U.S. should shift its budgetary emphasis from warfighting to war prevention.

The workload for nonmilitary international engagement has grown, and the money allocated by the government to pay for it has not kept pace.

Our intensive international diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear state, for example, are undermined by a budget that is investing billions of dollars in new nuclear weapons designs of our own while at the same time shaving the resources we apply to nonmilitary nonproliferation.

Sequestration is more about political maneuvering than sound budgeting practice.

If sequestration proceeds, it must not be used to protect the military accounts at the expense of the rest of the security portfolio.

Whether or not it proceeds, the total cuts to the military accounts specified by sequestration can be achieved without threatening our security if done in a rational manner.

Recommendations

For the FY 2013 budget, the report’s authors advocate slashing $71.8 billion from military accounts, while plussing up nonmilitary accounts related to national security by $29.2 billion.

How? The Center for American Progress advocates the following as part of its Unified Security Budget:

  • • Cut defense personnel expenditures by $10 billion
  • • Cut DoD and VA health care by $15 billion
  • • Cut projected spending on military retirement by $13 billion
  • • Cut military R & D by $5 billion
  • • Cut nuclear forces by $20 billion

 

At the same time, the study’s authors advocated increasing spending in the following areas:

  • • Spending $20 billion more on alternative energy
  • • Diplomacy by $2.1 billion
  • • Non-proliferation by $0.1 billion
  • • Increasing U.S. contributions to international organizations by $1.7 billion
  • • Increase U.S. contributions to UN Peacekeeping operations by $2.7 billion

 

The U.S. should reduce military spending to 2006 levels, adjusted for inflation.

The Center for American Progress is doubling down on the concept of climate change as a national security threat:

We also recommend that the largest addition to the prevention budget be in the area of climate security. Unless we invest seriously to stabilize the climate, the resulting increased weather extremes will be, in the U.S. military’s words, “threat multipliers” for instability and conflict. In addition, these investments will pay dividends for job creation at home.

The Center for American Progress advocates a substantial shift of funding and emphasis from “global security” to climate security.

Retirement

The Center For American Progress advocates converting the existing retirement program to a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k). Retirees would then take on the full risk of underfunding and bear all the investment risk of a 401(k). The study authors envision the DoD would contribute about 16 percent of the servicemembers’ base pay each year to the plan. This would limit long-term retirement costs, while allowing those who leave the service with less than 20 years with something to show for their time, however.

Health Care

The study’s authors call for increasing servicemembers’ contribution to the costs of their own health care from 11 percent to 14 percent – about half of what it was in 1996, when the military instituted the TRICARE system.

Further, the study recommended that we follow President Obama’s proposal to modify TRICARE for Life so that it would not cover the first $500 of an enrollee’s out-of-pocket expenses and only cover 50 percent of the next $5,000 in Medicare cost-sharing.

Additionally, the panel advocated limiting TRICARE coverage for military retirees who were still of working age. For example, by restricting TRICARE for Life enrollment to those who do not have access to another workplace health care plan.

Disabled veterans would continue to receive care via the VA, and would not be affected by these measures.

Authorship

The report was principally authored by Laurence Korb of the Center for American Progress and Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies. Members of the task force that produced the report included the following individuals:

  • Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives
  • Anita Dancs, Western New England University
  • Kenneth Forsberg, InterAction
  • Lt. General (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
  • Stephen Glain, journalist, author
  • Robert Greenstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • William D. Hartung, Center for International Policy
  • Christopher Hellman, National Priorities Project
  • William Johnstone, George Mason University
  • Don Kraus, Citizens for Global Solutions
  • Laura Peterson, Taxpayers for Common Sense
  • Robert Pollin, University of Massachusetts
  • Kingston Reif, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
  • Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
  • Cindy Williams, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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