Let’s cut the defense budget by…cutting the defense budget. This CBO chart shows that letting defense spending grow 1 percentage point less than now planned would save $67.3 billion over the next five years (that’s in outlays, the actually money spent in a given year [think of it as buying something with a check], not budget authority, which is an obligation to spend over several years [more akin to a credit card]). Freezing defense spending at the current level would save $130.8 billion over the next five years.
Actually cutting the budget — by 1 percent each year — would save $195 billion over the next five years in outlays. If that pain were shared evenly across the force, the CBO estimates that by 2021 the Pentagon would get back to its 2007 spending level — a reduction that might require cutting some 400,000 troops (about 25% of the total) from the ranks. We’ll post some of CBO’s suggestions for specific cuts over the next day or so.