Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman (R) recently submitted a plan to the congressional deficit reduction committee to slash $103 billion from defense spending primarily by converting active duty personnel to the National Guard and Reserve.
The committee has received numerous proposals from lawmakers and organizations advocating a variety of specific spending reductions and ideas for helping the panel fulfill its mission to find at least $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. It is not clear how much support Coffman’s proposal will gain on the committee, as Republican members already have said they would oppose further cutbacks in defense spending.
In a letter to the 12-member panel, Coffman, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a Marine Corps combat veteran, said transferring the equivalent of 100,000 active-duty positions to the National Guard and the Reserve would achieve a $90 billion savings in personnel costs over 10 years. The average cost of an Army soldier is $130,000 per year, while that same soldier costs $43,000 in the National Guard and $37,000 in the Army Reserve, he noted.
Coffman would like to see the 100,000 reduction in active duty personnel come out of the force structure assigned to Europe and South Korea where there are a combined total of 107,000 troops. By redeploying the equivalent force structure into the National Guard and Reserve, Coffman argues there would be an additional savings beyond the $103 billion envisioned in his plan by closing overseas bases in Europe and South Korea.
To save an additional $13 billion, he recommends suspending a plan to change the assignments in South Korea from a one-year unaccompanied tour to a three-year accompanied one that will allow service members to bring their families with them. The military construction cost associated with building family housing, expanded health care facilities and dependent schools in South Korea, Coffman said, are projected to be $13 billion over the next 10 years.
“In his parting remarks before stepping down as secretary of defense, Robert Gates cautioned against making easy decisions that are politically palatable in the short-term, but will ultimately hollow out our armed forces in the long run. We can make responsible decisions that will reverse our ruinous course on deficit spending while ensuring that we fulfill our role to provide for the common defense of the United States,” he wrote the committee.