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Military Spending Cuts Could Enhance Security

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release June 24, 2005
http://www.btlonline.org/btl062405.html

Military Spending Cuts Could Enhance National Security and Restore Funding for Some Social Programs

- Interview with Anita Dancs, research director of the National Priorities Project, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Listen in RealAudio:
http://www.btlonline.org/dancs062405.ram
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Under the proposed federal budget for 2006, military spending totals $450 billion, seven times as much as all other homeland security and preventive measures combined. And that doesn't even include the $70 billion to $100 billion a year the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost. That money is not included in the defense budget due to political, not budgetary considerations.

Last week, the National Priorities Project released a study showing how $53 billion could be cut from the military budget and redirected to increase protections against terrorist attacks while also allocating $13 billion more for domestic needs. Those dollars, for example, could provide health coverage for almost three million uninsured Americans, or build more than 100,000 low-income housing units.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Anita Dancs, research director of the National Priorities Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. She discusses how national tax and spending policies affect the country across a broad range of issues and programs.

ANITA DANCS: We could have just that, better security for less money. This is based on a report written by a number of partner organizations, and what been found is that we could conservatively cut military programs by about $53 billion. Then we could redirect some of that money, in fact most of that money, into other types of programs that improve our security, such as preventive measures, which include diplomacy, working internationally, and securing nuclear materials abroad ? or homeland security, such as improving the security at ports, or nuclear facilities or chemical plants. What we’re looking at is just redirecting what are unnecessary military programs and redirecting that money into addressing security deficits in preventive measures or homeland security. But what we find is that we still have money left over. So basically, if we have a much more comprehensive, better security policy, we could have it for fewer dollars. We’d have left about $13 billion, and those dollars could be put towards deficit reduction or they could be put toward domestic needs.

BETWEEN THE LINES: The federal budget surplus when Bill Clinton left office was projected to grow to $5.6 trillion over the next decade. Instead, the deficit for last year alone is $445 billion. That’s an amazing turnaround.

ANITA DANCS: In 2000, when the Bush administration took over, the federal budget was in surplus, meaning we were taking in more money than we were spending. But quickly that evaporated to nothing. And there’s two major reasons why we now have large deficits. One is because of all the various tax break packages that were passed over the past few years. And the second reason is because there’s been this enormous boost in military spending and homeland security spending. You know, there’s a number of military programs that continue to be funded even though they’re really from the Cold War era. These programs are unnecessary, or they’re redundant, and basically, they’re cost-ineffective. For example, the FA-22 Raptor aircraft. This is something that in the budget there will be $4.3 billion spent on next year, even though we can use less costly aircraft and do what this aircraft is meant to do. Other examples are, you know, there’s submarines, there’s destroyers. These are costing billions of dollars to develop new technologies to advance destroyers or submarines, even though they’re really developing technologies to address the Soviet threat, and again, the Soviet threat has ended. The type of threats we face today require different measures, so we can save money on these unnecessary, redundant programs, we have existing weapons that can do the same thing, and we can save money. For a very small amount of money -- for less than a billion dollars -- we could redirect that toward some acts that have been proposed in Congress, such as the Chemical Safety Act, which would require chemical plants to assess their vulnerability and undertake appropriate measures to assure better security in our homeland.

BETWEEN THE LINES: The latest budget issue that’s drawn a lot of attention is the House plan to cut the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting almost in half. Of course a lot of people think it’s a political move, but the Republicans are couching it as a necessary budgetary move.

ANITA DANCS: Congress wants to cut that, percentage-wise, by a tremendous amount. But if we look at how much money it would be cutting, it would be less than $200 million. This is a trivial part of the budget, in fact, if we look at our tax dollar, it’s 2/100s of a cent of our tax dollar. This is a very, very small piece of the federal budget. And yet, the argument is we need to cut it because we need to reduce the deficit. On the other hand, again going back to the military programs, huge military programs that are unnecessary and redundant, and could save us a lot of money.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Do you see any moves by Congress to try to address the military squeeze on domestic spending? I know Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, had introduced some kind of resolution regarding this.

ANITA DANCS: There was a congressional resolution out of Rep. Woolsey’s office, to shift some of the unnecessary military spending into programs that would address security deficits and address domestic needs. The talk is now that it may be proposed to be more than a congressional resolution and to actually be an amendment to an appropriations bill for the Department of Defense that some of this money be shifted into programs that address domestic needs and that address some of our security deficits. But this will only happen if people let their elected officials know how they feel about these issues.

Contact the National Priorities Project at (413) 584- 9556 or visit their website at:

http://www.nationalpriorities.org

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Melinda Tuhus is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending June 24, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

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