While Republicans in both the Senate and The House of Representatives throw everything they have, which is very little, into defunding Obamacare while risking a government shutdown, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is looking into considerably less futile means by which to cut federal spending.

Department of Defense

Department of Defense budget cut

Today, Mr. Hagel announced that he will look to cut the Army by 80,000 while also reducing the Marines by an unspecified amount. But is that enough?

Not according to a report issued Tuesday by the non-partisan Henry L. Stimson Center. The report suggests that the Department of Defense could cut an additional 60,000 troops and 50,000 civilian workers without sacrificing military readiness. Certainly, Congressmen and Congresswomen who have bases in their districts along with a number of hawks will disagree.

The report suggests that the Army, which currently has 570,000, could be reduced to 430,000 without reducing its capabilities.

Military to trim $50 billion annually

Entitled “Strategic Agility: Strong National Defense for Today’s Global and Fiscal Realities,” the report also pointed out three areas where the military could trim $50 billion on an annual basis. While these cuts could come with some risk, the report doesn’t feel the risk outweighs the reward of slowing the unsustainable Department of Defense’s spending.

  • $22.4 billion in management changes, including eliminating unnecessary workers from headquarters and all of Department of Defense’s various agencies. This includes reforming retirement and health care benefits and getting rid of redundant commissaries.
  • $21.4 billion by cutting active forces trained to fight traditional wars, along with some nuclear forces.
  • $5.7 billion in modernization cost cuts.

“Realistically, however, significant belt-tightening inevitably means doing without some forces we would have preferred to maintain, forces that provide insurance against less likely threats,” the report says. “However, we must stop ignoring fiscal realities; the consequences of continuing along the current path are far too dangerous.”

Department of Defense’s financial audit

While Department of Defense commanders will maintain that the $600 billion in cuts that are coming will hurt readiness, how would they know? The Department of Defense has never been successfully audited.

“It is simply unacceptable that the Department of Defense is the only major federal agency that has not completed a financial audit. Our bill will help to solve that problem,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) said in a statement announcing a recent bill.

The bill requires Department of Defense to pass an audit by 2018. If it does not, funding for major programs and weapons upgrades would go unfunded and IT programs that were not installed within three years would be eliminated.

Given the amount of pork and pet projects contained in the Department of Defense budget, the bill faces an insurmountable fight when it heads to Capital Hill.

“Every year [that] the Pentagon fails to produce a viable financial audit, they not only violate the Constitution, but put our nation’s security at risk because of a failure to effectively prioritize spending,” said budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). “A full and complete audit is the only way the department will be able to make better decisions about how it uses valuable taxpayer dollars. This bill helps the Pentagon help itself by simply requiring the Pentagon to meet its own deadlines.”