Exclusive Op-Ed by Army Ranger Mark Lucas: Defense Dept. Can Afford Cuts Under Sequestration

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The sequester scare tactics displayed in Washington is the reason why people have lost faith in our government. Our elected officials will say or do anything in hopes of avoiding making cuts and becoming buddies with lobbyists. Unfortunately, even some conservatives are falling for the absurd claim that the defense department cannot afford the sequester cuts. I disagree.

I have had the opportunity to serve in the military for 10 years. After completing the US Army Ranger school I deployed as an infantry rifle platoon leader along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Sometimes veterans return home with a bad taste in their mouth and an axe to grind. I’m not one of those soldiers. My love of country and the United States Army grows everyday. I fondly look back to my experience leading soldiers in combat, bonding with the Afghan people, and leaving the Afghan Border Police in Paktya a better-trained unit.

During my time in the military I have seen plenty of government waste. We have an outstanding military, but at the end of the day it’s another wasteful government department.

The Government Accountability Office conducted an audit two years ago that found $70 billion of waste within the defense department. In 2010, another GAO report found that the Defense Logistics Agency ordered 50 percent more equipment than was needed for the military. That equates to $7 billion of our tax dollars sitting in a warehouse collecting dust.

The Defense Department can also find cuts by eliminating duplication of effort. The military has purchased $18 billion worth of airborne electronic attack systems. These are much needed systems and should be a top priority. However, due to the sense of urgency the GAO found that all four military services were purchasing technology with “similar capabilities, resulting in potential duplication of efforts.”

Another prime example of waste is the military’s drone technology acquisition. Taxpayers will pay over $37 billion for unmanned drone systems by 2016. The GAO found that the Defense Department has considerable overlap and duplication within their drone portfolio. They went further to criticize the Pentagon by saying they do “not prioritize requirements, consider redundancies across proposed programs, or prioritize and analyze capability gaps in a consistent manner.” The Pentagon can and should purchase the tools it needs for our fighting men and women without wasting it on duplicitous work.

But we cannot place all the blame on the Pentagon. There is also the army of Chicken Hawk politicians who authorize more defense spending than the military requests and funding weapon systems the Pentagon doesn’t want – in order to win favors with lobbyists.

Not only do these members on Capitol Hill want to secure votes they also want to line their pockets. The Washington Post found that 19 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee held investments in the defense industry. These same individuals have a huge impact on awarding government contracts.

We have the greatest military in the world. But our military is not great because of the size of our budget. The American warfighter is what makes us the strongest nation in the world. Personal courage is one of the seven Army values we live by as soldiers. We have seen very little courage out of Washington DC for fixing our spending crisis. We need our elected officials to put their service to country above their political ambitions and personal greed.


Mark Lucas is Americans for Prosperity’s Iowa State Director and served 10 years in the U.S. Army. He served in Afghanistan and is an Army Ranger.