Over the last decade, military spending has nearly doubled — it now exceeds Cold War levels. Coupled with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, these massive expenditures have contributed to the crippling of our economy.

Despite lip service from Washington officials, including outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, there’s been little appetite for reining in this rampant spending. Yet, in the increasingly partisan budget debate, military spending is the one area where there may be some bipartisan agreement.

Questioned about Republicans’ unwillingness to cut military spending, Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said in an interview this week, “Look, I know there are sacred cows, but we cannot afford them anymore.”

But any cuts must be done in a smart way that ensures our safety and security here at home. Since 2004, the Institute for Policy Studies has promoted a bold vision about ending waste in the vast military budget, and providing a road map on how to shift security resources more effectively.

Guided by a task force of military, diplomacy, and homeland security experts and led by IPS expert Miriam Pemberton and Lawrence Korb at the Center for American Progress, the Institute released today a new report titled “Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2012.”

For those on Capitol Hill looking for effective cuts, Korb notes, “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.”

And Pemberton explains the security framework that makes cuts — and additions — to the budget possible. “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,” she says.

Overhauling U.S. security spending should be just one way the nation moves toward more rational fiscal approach. Just last week, IPS rallied with nurses on Wall Street, calling on the financial industry to pay their fair share of the costs of the economic crisis. And the Institute’s Chuck Collins is an integral part of a campaign to target tax cheats, including Apple.

This mixture of smart spending cuts and increases in revenue puts real military and economic security within our grasp.

P.S.: As Glenn Beck leaves the Fox News Network today, IPS is sending him a goodbye card along with a copy of our annual report that he paraded on his show last year. Add your name to the card by making a tax-deductible donation to IPS as we celebrate the end of an error!

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