As President Obama asks Republicans to cut “sacred cows” from the budget and make security budget cuts, report discusses ways to shift our security resources.

Washington DC – As Robert Gates steps down as Defense Secretary, to be succeeded by Leon Panetta, and as President Obama asks Republicans to cut so-called “sacred cows” from the budget, a new report entitled “Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2012” makes a bold statement about continued waste in a vast military budget, and details how to shift security resources more effectively. The new report examines the security budget and lists ways to modify the budget to enhance our security. It provides an analysis of the budget under Gates, tracing the differences between Gates’ rhetoric and his reality. It gives detailed information about some of the “sacred cows” in the security budget that President Obama spoke of yesterday, and that House Republicans now show a new willingness to cut, after possible consultations with Panetta. The report, released annually since 2004 by the Institute for Policy Studies, was supported by a task force that includes experts and analysts from diverse military and civilian backgrounds (task force members listed below).


Gates himself had criticized the resource imbalance that favors his department. “America’s civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long,” he said in 2008, “relative to what we spend on the military.”

The new “Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2012” task force released by the Institute for Policy Studies shows:

  • Gates’ words were never matched by the facts of his own budget requests. Closely inspected, the past and future military “savings” claimed by the administration, even if they materialize, will leave us with military budgets even higher than they are now.
  • The administration’s FY 2012 request did modestly rebalance the security budget, comprising spending on the military, homeland security and non-military foreign engagement.
  • This rebalancing was mostly attributable, however, to the shift in responsibility for Iraq from the Defense to the State Department.
  • Congress is on track to reverse these gains, by fully funding the military request while slashing spending on non-military international affairs.

“Extraordinary new possibilities for peaceful democratic transformation have emerged this year in the Arab world,” said Miriam Pemberton, co-author of the report and Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. “Solidifying these gains will require more non-military support from the United States. Instead our non-military security budgets are being cut. We need a budget process that looks at our security challenges as a whole, and allocates resources in a way that matches the lip service everyone in government pays to the co-equal importance of military and non-military tools.”

“Inflated military spending is a result of unprecedented growth in the defense budget since 1998, “said Lawrence Korb, co-author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.”There is plenty that can be trimmed from the $700 billion-plus spent annually on the military. In the report we detail $77 billion of lowest hanging fruit.”

Some of the budget trade-offs in the report include:

  • $10 billion could serve to maintain a nuclear arsenal of 5,100 active warheads, a level that is 4,800 over the suggested nuclear deterrent requirement, for six months, OR the money could be used to fulfill the U.S. pledge of $10 billion for the G-8 Global Partnership initiative to eliminate Russia’s WMD stockpiles.
  • $2.41 billion could go to purchase a second Virginia Class Submarine, a weapon that is unnecessary to address any of the threats facing the United States today, OR that money could go to meet the State Department’s request of $2.14 billion for the Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities account, and recover $322 million cut from public diplomacy in 2008.
  • $1.3 billion could be used to maintain existing levels of annual aid to Egypt’s military, OR that money could help prevent war or terrorism by supporting Egypt’s burgeoning democracy through economic and humanitarian assistance.

“These are the kind of trade-offs our lawmakers should be considering: decisions about what kind of spending will really make us and the rest of the world safer,” said Pemberton. “Currently, they almost never do. Unified security budgeting would move them in this direction.”

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Unified Security Task Force, 2011:

Gregory Adams
Director of Aid Effectiveness and Reform
Oxfam America

Carl Conetta
Project on Defense Alternatives

Anita Dancs
Asst. Professor of Economics
Western New England College

Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., PhD
Chair, Board of Trustees
Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation

William D. Hartung
Senior Research Fellow, American Strategy Program
New America Foundation

Christopher Hellman
Communications Coordinator
National Priorities Project

William Johnstone
Former 9/11 Commission Staff Member

Lawrence J. Korb
Senior Fellow
Center for American Progress

Don Kraus
Chief Executive Officer
Citizens for Global Solutions

Miriam Pemberton
Research Fellow
Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies

Laura Peterson
Senior Policy Analyst
Taxpayers for Common Sense

Robert Pollin
Co-director and Professor of Economics
Political Economy Research Institute

Kingston Reif
Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Lawrence Wilkerson
Former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State

Dr. Cindy Williams
Principal Research Scientist, Security Studies Program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Institute for Policy Studies ( is a community of public scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment in the U.S. and globally. We work with social movements to promote true democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate influence, and military power.

The Unified Security Budget task force has reported annually since 2004 on the imbalance in security spending, which is tilted too heavily toward military expenditures.

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