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Solving the Fiscal Impasse Starts and Ends at the Pentagon

Achieve sensible cuts to out-of-control Pentagon spending: In 2011, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance — more than it spent on Medicare and more than the next 13 nations spent on defense combined, including China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France. There are many proposals from a wide variety of groups from across the political spectrum that detail defense savings on par with or beyond the cuts called for under the sequestration portion of the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Project on Defense Alternatives, CATO Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Center for American Progress, and Bowles-Simpson Commission have all called for deep cuts in defense spending ranging from $350 billion to $590 billion beyond the cuts already in place. Making sensible cuts would help create a cost-effective military aligned with 21st-century threats.

Audit the Pentagon: Financial responsibility must not stop at the doors of the Pentagon. Almost 60 cents of every federal discretionary dollar now goes toward defense spending. By the Pentagon’s own admission, it cannot properly account for how the money is spent. There is no doubt these circumstances have contributed to instances of waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon. We must stop the culture of reckless spending at the Pentagon by demanding that every program at the Defense Department pass independent audits.

Securing new revenue as well as achieving significant cuts to and transparency in defense spending, while also ending the war in Afghanistan, will prevent the fiscal burden from being shifted onto the backs of poor and working families or making unnecessary benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Our priority right now must be jobs to build up our economic strength and lift millions out of poverty, the true measure of our nation’s security.

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee represents California’s 13th District. She also co-chairs the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus.

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